Many of us make a considerable effort to keep our homes clean, and this includes all those hard to reach places where dust and debris can gather. Cleaning behind the refrigerator or the tops of those tall bookshelves is difficult, but it is possible with a little planning and perseverance. But, can the same be said about your air conditioning system? Most people don’t have the first clue about how or why they might want to clean their AC system. In this article, we will explore this issue in more detail and show some useful tips to keep your system clean and efficient.
The Modern AC System
A modern air conditioning system is a complex piece of equipment, and it works hard to keep your indoor temperature at a comfortable level. Regular servicing before the start of each cooling season will include an inspection of the various components. Any parts that are failing can be repaired or replaced as needed, and some general cleaning will be carried out on your AC system. But, if you don’t have any formal training in HVAC engineering is there any cleaning that you can do yourself? The short answer is yes, and we will show you how below.
3 Ways to Clean Your AC System
There are three main parts of your AC system that you can clean to a basic level even if you don’t have much experience with DIY or engineering skills; they are the air filter, the ducts, and the exterior unit. Let’s take a closer look at each one.
- Cleaning the Air Filter
The air filter should be changed every 1-3 months to keep it clear and to maintain the airflow to your AC system. If you have pets or other sources of air contamination in your home, you may have to change or clean your air filter every month. If you’re in any doubt, check the air filter for dirt and debris, if it looks dirty, clean or replace it anyway.
The air filter is a vital part of your AC system, when it becomes clogged with material, such as skin cells, pet hair, dust, and debris, it will impede the airflow into your system. This will have an adverse effect on the air quality, and it will make the air conditioner less efficient at cooling your home. When the air conditioner is operating it needs to suck air into the system and when it can’t the system is forced to work harder. This introduces more strain on the components, and they can easily become damaged leading to an unnecessary repair.
If the air filter is dirty, it will affect the indoor air quality in your home. If there is any pollen or mold on the air filter, this will be circulated throughout your home. If anyone in your home has allergies or a respiratory condition they will probably notice the change first. It’s easy to make your indoor air healthier by changing your air filter on a monthly basis.
Changing or cleaning the air filter is simple and you need no special training. The location of the air filter will be shown in your owner’s manual. If you cannot find your manual check the make and model number online and you will probably find a pdf manual to download. Check that you have the air filter that you need, they can be purchased in most hardware stores, or you can buy them online. Many air filters can be purchased at a significant discount if you buy them in bulk. Remove the dirty air filter, if it’s washable, then give it a clean in warm soapy water, rinse it and let it dry naturally before you replace it.
A residential air filter should have a MERV rating in the 7-12 range. If you install an air filter with a MERV rating over 12, you will have problems. Air filters with higher MERV ratings are typically used in industrial, medical or laboratory locations. A domestic AC system will not be powerful enough to force air through an air filter that’s too dense, this will actually impede the airflow, and it can easily damage your equipment.
- Cleaning the Air Ducts
It is possible to carry out some light cleaning to your air ducts and registers. Use a handheld vacuum cleaner or a cleaner with a hose attachment to suck up any dust. You can remove the vents and use a slightly damp cloth or sponge to clean inside the ducts. When you do this, you will be limited by how far you can reach into the ducts. You may even notice that the ducts are dirtier than you thought and you cannot reach far enough in to clean effectively.
When your ducts are dirty, there can be all sorts of nasty stuff present, such as dust, bacteria, pollen, and mold growing there. This is very hard to see or reach without professional cleaning equipment. This material is circulated throughout the home every time the AC system is turned on, and it will degrade the indoor air quality.
Experts advise that you get your air ducts cleaned every two years to make sure that they are clear of contaminants. If you’ve recently moved into your home, it’s a good idea to get them cleaned straight away, and then you can be sure that they are clean. When the air ducts are clean, the air is much fresher, and anyone suffering from allergies or breathing conditions will notice the change.
- Cleaning the Outdoor Unit
The outdoor unit is where the compressor for your AC system is located. This is where the heat that is gathered throughout the home is released, and there should be no obstruction to prevent the dissipation of this heat. Some people use this location to store outdoor tools, and furniture or plant growth and debris could gather here. It’s important that this area is kept clear; tidy any stuff away and find a better home for it. If the plants have grown around the unit trim them back and open the space up.
It may be tempting to open the outdoor unit up and clean inside, but this is a task better suited to a professional HVAC technician. If you don’t know what you’re doing it’s very easy to dislodge or disrupt the coils or another component. This can lead to a repair or even a replacement that could have been avoided. The outdoor unit will be inspected and cleaned as part of a regularly scheduled service.