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All about air conditioner maintenance

Last modified: 2021-04-20 | Approximate reading time 6 mins

Amanda Harvey

Although we all look forward to the warmer weather, few people enjoy suffocating inside their hot home or apartment. This is why many of us purchase an air conditioner or heat pump.

However, to benefit from these systems for a long time, they must be well maintained. So what about the procedure to follow to perform this one?

Maintaining your air conditioner

Why is this important?

With all that there is to do daily, one might be tempted to put aside certain tasks that are less important and can simply wait. However, when it comes to your air conditioner, this mistake should be avoided. Indeed, you must keep in mind that a well-maintained air conditioner will have a longer lifespan, in addition to performing optimally.

Regarding our last point, it should be noted that an air conditioner capable of delivering its full performance will provide healthier air inside the house and will also be able to save energy.

Before you begin maintaining your air conditioner

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Before starting to clean or maintain your air conditioner, it’s worth taking a look at your instruction manual. This will inform you of any warning to follow so that the cleaning process can run smoothly.

Second, don't forget to unplug your device. Do you have a central air conditioning system? In this case, you’ll have to disengage the circuit breaker on your electrical panel or interrupt the power supply using the box located near your device.

Finally, it’s important to remember that not all air conditioners will let you know when the time has come to clean them. Therefore, it’s preferable to write this information down in a calendar to avoid forgetting when to perform the task.

Maintaining a split air conditioner

Filter cleaning

If you have a split air conditioner, first tilt the panel on the front of the air conditioner up. To remove the filter, all you have to do is unclip it.

Now it’s time to remove any dust on the filter with a vacuum cleaner. For efficiency when completing this task, use a narrow nozzle. Then, complete the work by rinsing the filter with lukewarm water and brushing it with a soft bristle brush to dislodge any dust that remains on the surface. Finally, allow the filter to dry as long as necessary before putting it back in place.

If necessary, clean the activated carbon filter. For this, it should be noted that an activated carbon filter must be cleaned by following a specific procedure. This consists of placing the filter in the dishwasher and washing it at the highest possible temperature. Finally, dry the filter in the oven at 100 degrees Celsius for about 10 minutes. Cleaning the activated carbon filter will allow it to play its role, which has a deodorizing effect. Note that this type of filter must be replaced every year.

Let’s end this section by remembering that cleaning the filters of a split air conditioner should be done once or twice a month. Also important: it’s advisable to replace any filter that appears damaged.

Cleaning the outdoor unit (condenser)

Now, regarding the maintenance of the outdoor unit, note that great care must be taken. To clean it properly, use a mixture of lukewarm water and a mild all-purpose soap. You can also use a compressor, as long as you set the air jet on low. When finishing, examine the holes where condensation water drains to be sure that they’re not blocked by any dirt or debris.

Note that it’s also necessary to clean the outdoor coil with a garden hose. To prevent damage to the air conditioner, use the low-pressure hose. Let’s finish by specifying that it’s important to complete a deep cleaning of this system at least once every three years.

Maintenance of the heat pump

Filter cleaning

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When it comes to maintaining your heat pump, filter replacement recommendations may vary from a manufacturer to another. However, it’s generally advisable to check the filter every month to be sure that it’s not dirty. Again, don’t wait for your system to tell you when to do this, as not all systems will offer this information.

When it comes to the filter cleaning process, it’ll depend on the type of filter you have. In fact, your heat pump may have a disposable filter. If this is the case, just replace it. If your filter is reusable, it can be cleaned with a vacuum cleaner.

In terms of how often this cleaning’s required, it’s essential to reiterate the importance of following the manufacturer’s guidelines. If in doubt, don’t hesitate to ask them for more information. Depending on how often you use your system as well as other conditions (whether or not you have pets, etc), it’s likely you should perform this task more often. 

Remember, there are several types of filters, and this can influence how often they need to be replaced, as well as the exact procedure to follow to perform this operation.

For more on the subject, read our article How to replace an air conditioning filter.

Cleaning the outdoor unit

Now is the time to clean the outdoor unit, which will be necessary considering all the dirt and dust that’ll tend to collect on it. Before proceeding with this step, turn off the heat pump. For the cleaning itself, use a garden hose or a bucket of lukewarm water, along with a sponge. Inspect the unit and make sure that the heat pump and fan aren’t obstructed by one or more debris.

Would you like to learn more about maintaining your heat pump? See our article How to maintain a heat pump.

Duct maintenance 

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At first glance,  we should note that not all heat pumps have a duct. If your system has one, you’ll need to contact a specialized company to clean them. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to do this job on your own due to the type of equipment required to perform this task.

Maintaining of the fan motor

Now it’s time to service the fan motor. Although you may not think about this step right away, it’s important to pay attention. You should know that this piece may need to be lubricated from time to time. If you notice your air conditioner making more noise than usual or hearing pops or squeaks, it's probably time to do so. 

The procedure involves removing the screws that hold the panel in front of the fan. Then, remove the panel carefully to avoid damaging nearby wiring. Place a few drops in the ports designed for this purpose and lastly, replace the panel.

Cleaning the capacitor coils

Here, we’re at the stage of cleaning the capacitor coils, a stage that must be carried out with the greatest of care due to their fragility. You’ll need to carefully remove any dirt and debris that’s accumulated on the outside of the coils, then focus your attention on the fins themselves. To clean them, use a vacuum cleaner with a soft bristle brush.

The interior of the unit also deserves your attention. To maintain it, you’ll need to use a sprayer and work from the inside out, spraying the fins so that the dirt inside comes off. However, be careful not to spray the wiring or the fan motor of the unit, otherwise, you’ll damage your system. Once the operation is complete, there should be no debris left.

Wall-mounted air conditioning: how to maintain it?

To maintain your wall-mounted air conditioner, start by cleaning the condenser coil as well as the evaporator. To do this, remove the plastic bracket or the panel of the air conditioner. Now use a fine brush to straighten the bent fins. However, be careful not to rush to complete this task, otherwise, you risk damaging the tubing. This could greatly affect your device’s efficiency. 

Next is the coil cleaning. When these are clean, apply lubricant to them. Make sure the fins are not curved and are instead, straight. Otherwise, the air circulation inside the fins could be greatly compromised.

If you notice any dust on the fan blades, remember to clean them with an all-purpose cleaner. If the fan in question has a motor, you can apply a little oil to it to lubricate it properly.

As for the filter, of course, it’ll be important to clean it (if it’s reusable) or to replace it if it’s disposable. The procedure for performing this task is very similar to that used for the split air conditioner.

If your unit is located outside, it’s important to remove any debris potentially residing in the compressor or condenser. This can be done by removing the casing from the top of the unit and using a vacuum cleaner to remove debris from inside the unit.

Would you like to have an overview of the costs of the different air conditioning systems? Read our article The Cost of Air Conditioning Systems.

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