Every spring and fall, Sacramento residents should clean their air conditioner’s coils. This includes removing fallen debris, cleaning dust, and removing pollen buildup. The unit could be damaged if your AC coils do not have the proper airflow. However, you may wonder if power washing your AC unit is safe.
Why You Should Never Power Wash Your AC Unit
Let’s admit it, using a power washer can be fun. However, when it comes to cleaning your AC unit, it can also be hazardous. Power washers or pressure washers create thousands of PSI of water pressure. Most people are surprised by how powerful these machines can be, and they only recognize it once what they’re trying to clean has been destroyed.
When you look at the coil fins of your air conditioner’s air handler, you will see that they are made of thin metal, usually aluminum or copper. Aluminum and copper are highly malleable. When exposed to high pressure, they can quickly flatten or bend. Too much water pressure can crush the coils, rendering them useless.
A garden hose exerts less pressure but does not have sufficient force to get into the tiny grooves and spirals of the coils. So it’s not an effective way to clean your AC unit.
Sadly, at Gallagher's Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning we have seen some AC coils that were wholly bent out of shape or had large holes push through them because they were power washed. Replacing AC coils can be extremely expensive, depending on the repaired unit. The following tips may be beneficial to help you keep your air conditioner’s external condenser unit clean without damaging it.
Understanding the Difference Between the Evaporator and Condenser Coils
Before starting a project cleaning your AC unit, you should know a little about how the system works. Your AC unit has indoor and outdoor components. Each has a unique coil that needs to be cleaned.
Though the evaporator coil is on the inside of the unit, it’s made from copper and is what conducts heat via coolant. The coil will remove the heat from the warm air that passes over it, causing the refrigerant to evaporate and become a gas. The refrigerant transfers the warm air outside and then travels through the compressor to the condenser coils. The condensers transform the refrigerant into a liquid. With the help of an exhaust fan, the condenser coil releases the heat outside.
To properly clean your AC unit, you must clean its indoor and outdoor components. If you feel it is complicated or intimidating to clean your AC unit or have concerns that you might need additional maintenance, contact Gallagher's Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning today. Our team is ready to help you identify and diagnose any problems you might have.
Cleaning Your Air Conditioner’s Indoor Unit
Start by turning off the power to the AC unit. Remember, an air conditioner has a ton of moving electrical parts. Throughout the cleaning process, your safety is paramount. You can switch off the power at the breaker box or disconnect the unit from the energy source.
Open up the AC unit. The blower unit should have a door leading to the evaporator coil. Depending on your unit type, you may need to remove the foil duct tape and a few bolts or screws to access the coil.
Clean the evaporator coil using a soft brush to remove dust. The dust is made up of the particulates in your home, including pollen, dead skin cells, and pet dander. If you have allergies, you should put on a mask. The easiest cleaning solution is a no-rinse coil cleaner found in most home improvement stores. Spray the foam on the coil. On its own, it will drip into the unit drain pan, removing any dust and debris. It’s preferable to do this on a warm day. When you turn the unit back on, the AC will build up condensation, rinsing off the coils.
Once the cleaner has completed its job, clean the AC drain pan. Typically, soap and hot water are all that you need. You can use a 50-50 water and bleach mixture if you are concerned about sanitation. Pour some of the mixture down the drain to ensure that it is clear. If you notice algae problems, look for drain pan tablets at your home improvement store to keep the algae away.
Now, examine the drain, and clear it if it is plugged. Without regular maintenance and cleaning, mold and algae can build up in the drain. The drain is typically a one-inch PVC pipe, so it can quickly clog.
Finally, close the access panel by reattaching the same screws you removed at the beginning. Don’t forget to use HVAC metal tape to seal the top and bottom of the access panel. This is all you need to do to clean the evaporator coil. However, you may find that there are issues that you cannot or do not want to address on your own. If this is the case, contact Gallagher's Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning and have our professionals inspect, maintain, and clean your unit for you at least twice a year.
Cleaning Your Outside Unit
Cleaning the condenser coils is a little bit more labor intensive. This is because the condenser coils are exposed to the elements and can get dirty quickly. You may need special equipment to clean the condenser coil properly.
Start by ensuring that the power is off. Remove the sheet metal screws from the top of the unit. Remove the fan unit and grille. Typically, there is enough slack in the wiring for you to remove the fan and set it on the ground without needing to disconnect anything.
Now, remove any debris that has accumulated on the bottom of the air conditioner. You will probably see that leaves, twigs, and seeds have collected in the unit.
Clean the air conditioner’s fins and coils. Purchase a coil cleaning solution and use it following the manufacturer’s recommendation. Do not use a power washer for this chore. The fins are delicate, and power washing them can permanently damage them.
Next, straighten the air conditioner’s fins. Bent fins on the coils reduce the unit’s efficiency. You can straighten them out using a fin tool and carefully comb the fins back in place.
Clean around the AC unit, replace the fan cage and reattach any of the screws you took off. Make sure that there is no debris around the unit. You should leave between two and five feet of cleared space in every team direction to ensure optimal airflow.
Finally, turn on your clean AC unit and enjoy the cool air circulating in your home. As you can see, cleaning the condenser and evaporator unit requires a considerable amount of work. It is often more advantageous to have the work done by professionals.
Working With HVAC Professionals You Can Trust in Sacramento
At Gallagher's Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning, we have dedicated ourselves to offering exceptional plumbing, heating, and air conditioning services. As a fully licensed, bonded, and EPA-certified team, we can offer you the highest quality service in the safest way possible.
We are proud to provide AC repair, maintenance, and installation. We help our clients with duct cleaning, air purification, indoor air quality tests, and all plumbing installation and repair. Contact Gallagher's Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning today to learn more about how we can service your needs in Northern California!