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Keep your cool with regular AC maintenance

Clean your outside air-conditioning unit of debris and leaves with a garden hose spray. Be sure you have turned off the power to your unit before proceeding.

Whole-home and heat-pump air-conditioning systems need regular attention, especially just before hot weather begins. Following these tips will help keep your unit operating at top efficiency. Maintenance not only keeps your house cooler more cheaply, it extends the life of your unit.

Before doing any of this yourself, be sure to cut off power to the unit at the breaker box.



1. Clean debris and leaves from the exterior condenser/compressor by removing the fan cage and using a wet/dry vacuum.

2. A wet/dry vac also helps in removing all outside dirt. You can use a garden hose to spray the fins through the outside grill around the unit.

3. If fins are bent, use a butter knife to gently straighten them. Be careful not to damage tubing embedded within.

4. The area around the unit should be cleaned as well, which will help keep the unit from clogging up again soon.

5. The unit operates better if it’s level. In fact, being too much out of level can cause the compressor to fail. Heat pumps can be slightly sloped away from the home’s foundation without causing damage. Use rot-resistant shims to level your unit.


6. Dust off coils on the inside unit with a soft brush, then spray with no-rinse coil cleaner which you can find at home improvement stores. After the foam has dripped into the drain pan, clean that with soap, water, and bleach.

7. Pour a solution of 50 percent bleach and 50 percent water down the drain. You can also place a drain pan tablet into the pan to fight any algae growth.

8. If the pan drains easily, you can skip this step. If not, you might have a plugged evaporator drain that needs to be cleaned. In most units, a white, gray, or black PVC pipe drains outside near the condenser. Locate where it goes and clean it out with a wet/dry vac.

9. Change your filter at least twice a year if it’s one of the bigger filters. Thin filters should be replaced every 30-60 days.

Flip the switch back on and experience a cooler more efficient summer! If you are uncomfortable with any of this, you can always call an expert air-conditioning service company and have them take care of everything for you. It will save you money in the long run. Every unit should have a periodic checkup by an expert.

Check out our Highland Lakes Home Improvement and Construction Guide for local experts.

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