If you own a home here in Sacramento, CA, you have a vested interest in keeping its AC system working efficiently. That’s because air conditioning costs make up a big portion of your home’s yearly energy usage. Plus, you wouldn’t want to live through a summer here without working air conditioning. Despite this, there are plenty of homeowners who neglect a basic type of AC maintenance. If you’re not regularly cleaning your AC coils, the system’s performance and efficiency will suffer. Here’s what you need to know to clean and maintain your AC coils.

What AC Coils Do

If you’re not familiar with the mechanics of your air conditioner, you may not know what its coils even do. Your air conditioner’s outdoor coil, known as the condenser coil, is responsible for expelling heat into the outdoors, and your cooling system cannot function without it.

Your AC’s cooling process begins with a low-pressure, cold liquid refrigerant passing through its indoor unit. There, the refrigerant absorbs heat from your home’s air as the blower fan runs. Eventually, the refrigerant absorbs enough heat that it boils into a vapor. That warm vapor then travels outside to your outdoor unit. There, a compressor raises its pressure and temperature. That’s when the condenser coil enters the picture.

The now-hot refrigerant vapor passes through the condenser coil while a large fan blows outdoor air across it. To efficiently remove heat from the refrigerant, the coil must allow unfettered airflow through its fins. Ideally, you want as much of the fins’ surface area as possible to come into contact with air as this happens. That increases the efficiency of your AC and helps it cool your home more effectively. Cleaning those coils periodically is essential to the proper functioning of the coil.

How Often Do AC Coils Need Cleaning?

You don’t need to clean your AC condenser coils often. Typically, a once-a-year cleaning before each cooling season should suffice. This helps guarantee that your coils are in peak condition when you need your AC the most. However, if you’ve never cleaned your AC condenser coils before, it’s a good idea to schedule a professional cleaning now.

A professional condenser coil cleaning will be more thorough than what you’ll be able to do yourself. Plus, the fins of your condenser coil are quite delicate, and it isn’t easy to remove accumulated dirt safely. Once you’ve had the coils thoroughly cleaned, it’ll be much easier for you to maintain them on an ongoing basis. Of course, you can have a coil cleaning performed each year as a part of your HVAC maintenance visits. That way, you don’t have to worry about damaging your coil, and you’ll always know it’s in top shape.

What You’ll Need to Clean Your Condenser Coil

If you want to tackle the job of cleaning your AC coil yourself, there are a few tools you’ll need to gather first. Some are things you may already own. However, you may need to order others in advance so you can do the job correctly. These tools include:

  • Heavy-duty gloves
  • A Phillips-head screwdriver
  • A scrub brush
  • A fin comb
  • A garden hose and sprayer
  • A shop vac
  • Foaming AC coil cleaner

You can get your hands on the majority of the above list at most home improvement stores. However, you may have difficulty finding a fin brush. It is a specialized tool that you need to clean out your AC coil’s fins without damaging them. Without one, never attempt an AC coil cleaning. You can find inexpensive fin brushes for sale online, but remember to allow enough time to receive yours before the day when you plan to do the job.

How to Clean Your AC Coils

Once you have all of the tools you need, you can proceed with the coil cleaning using the following steps.

1. Turn Off Power to Your AC

The first thing you need to do is disconnect the power from your AC’s outdoor unit. To do this, look for a breaker box mounted right nearby. Inside, you’ll find a power disconnect operated by a switch or a removable breaker. If you can’t verify that the power is off, call Atticman Heating and Air Conditioning, Insulation for help.

2. Remove the Side and Top Covers

Next, you will need to remove the side and top covers of your outdoor AC unit. This will allow you to reach the coils for a thorough cleaning. Although unit designs differ, most include covers you can take off by removing a few screws. Make sure to note their location and keep the screws in a safe place once removed. If you wish, you can also remove the unit’s fan for better coil access, although it isn’t strictly necessary.

3. Collect and Remove Internal Debris

With the covers removed, you can now put on your gloves and collect any debris that built up inside the unit. Often, you will find twigs and leaves that fall through the top of the unit and down toward its base. You can also use your shop vac to remove any dirt from in and around your outdoor unit.

4. Clean and Straighten the Coil Fins

Next, you will need your fin comb to both clean and straighten your coil fins. Simply run the fin comb gently in a downward motion over the fins to do this. As you move, you may notice some dirt getting scraped out from between the fins. If you don’t, your fins may not be extremely dirty. Either way, don’t use any added pressure, or you may damage your condenser coil.

5. Apply Coil Cleaner

After straightening the fins, you can move on to using your foaming coil cleaner. You should follow the directions on the specific product you’re using to do this. Typically, though, you will want to lightly wet the coils with your garden hose first. Then, apply the cleaning product, and wait for the amount of time specified in its instructions.

6. Rinse the Coil

When you’ve waited long enough, you can start rinsing the cleaner off of your coils. Use your garden hose to spray the coils, beginning from the inside. Work from top to bottom to remove all the cleaning solution. For best results, don’t use your hose at full power, and step back from the unit while you rinse. Otherwise, you could damage the fins you worked so hard to straighten and clean.

7. Dry and Reassemble

After rinsing your coil, wait for an hour or two for it to dry thoroughly. Then, you can reattach the unit’s covers and turn the power back on. At this point, your condenser coil should be completely clean and operating at peak efficiency.

Local AC Maintenance Specialists

If cleaning your AC’s condenser coil seems like too big a job for you, Atticman Heating and Air Conditioning, Insulation can help. We’re the leading HVAC company in Sacramento and offer complete HVAC services to homeowners here. We also handle ductwork, water heaters, insulation, and whole-house fans. Plus, we’re Better Business Bureau-accredited with an A+ rating. We have countless glowing reviews from local homeowners like you.

For AC coil cleaning and the rest of your HVAC maintenance needs in Sacramento, call our professionals at Atticman Heating and Air Conditioning, Insulation!

company icon