May 5, 2009

Cleaning a window-type air conditioner - posted for Susan

Susan posted her Tackle It Tuesday chore over at 5 Minutes for Mom. She cleaned up her portable air conditioner. I thought I would post more detailed instructions on how she can do this and get every bit of gunk out of it (or as close to it as possible without tearing the whole thing apart). I have, after all, cleaned one or two (or thirty) of these before. So, in honor of Susan's post, here's my method for cleaning window-type air conditioners. (I apologise in advance, but I have no pictures for you. Two years ago we bought our house, and we're fortunate enough to have a central heating and cooling unit, so I no longer have the joy of dealing with this chore two to three times a year. Anyone who does this and posts pictures can feel free to post their link in my comments below for everyone else.)

It's that time of year again. My Southern brothers and sisters most likely know what I'm talking about. For those who have window air conditioning units, it's time to take them down and clean them really good. When you live in an area that regularly gets high temperatures near or over 100&degF for weeks on end in the summer, this can be your most important spring-cleaning related job. Sometimes, it has to be repeated again in mid-summer at least once. A clean unit just cools better than a dirty one.

Don't be afraid. It won't hurt you to do this. All you need are:
  1. someone to lift the unit and carry it outside to the driveway/patio/wherever
  2. degreasing cleaner
  3. a scrub brush
  4. a hose with sprayer
  5. a screwdriver (to fit the screws holding the outer cover on)
  6. a nice, cool morning (preferably) so you don't sweat yourself half to death while you wait on your house to cool back down
Here's what to do to get started.

Unplug the unit. Take it out of the window/wall sleeve/etc and carry it outside. Place it in the driveway, on the patio, on your porch.... Anywhere that has a hard, relatively flat surface that will produce the least amount of mud while you're doing this. It does no good to clean your air conditioner, then get mud all in it. Take off the cover if there is one (should be held on with screws). Soak the coils down with your water hose, then with a degreasing-type cleaner (just the el-cheapo dollar store or store brand version; or even better - a natural degreaser). Matter of fact, spray everything you can (not electrical controls, etc.) with the cleaner. Spray the air vents, the front grill (where the filter goes), everywhere. Let it sit for 10-15 minutes or so. You may need two or more bottles of cleaner. You want to soak this baby down really well. Don't be shy.

Scrub the radiator with a brush (one with metal bristles will work best, but any scrub brush will do), being careful to not bend or crush the "radiator fin" part of the coils. Scrub the other parts of the unit with a nylon-bristle scrub brush (a dish-washing brush or fingernail brush will work great here). Hose out the unit very well, especially the coils. Rinse until the water runs clean and all of the cleaner is washed away.

Let all the water drain out of the unit, and let the unit dry thoroughly before putting the cover and any other pieces (vent pieces, etc.) you may have removed back on. After dry and the cover is back on, put the unit back where it belongs. Making sure the unit is COMPLETELY dry, plug it up and give it a try for just a minute. Bet it works better!

Dish detergent and a fingernail scrub brush are excellent for cleaning the front filter on a regular basis, also. It will remove all the greasy, gunky buildup and dust better than anything I've found.
Just do it in the morning, before it gets hot (or warm). Turn your unit off, remove and wash the filter. Don't scrub hard enough to break the filter, it doesn't take much pressure to get it clean this way. The sprayer attachment on your kitchen sink will work well for rinsing the detergent from the filter. (While you're at it, why not clean your dryer's lint filter this way, too? You've already got the necessary detergent and scrub brush out. You can let the two filters dry together.) Let your filter (air conditioner or dryer) get completely dry before putting it back in your machine.

I am lucky enough to have central air now, but it hasn't been but a couple of years since I lived in a place that had a window air conditioning unit in one window of every room. (It really does get that hot here in the summer!) I always liked to hang my filters outside in the shade to dry (we had a covered porch I could hang them from). The heat outside, plus the breeze blowing, dried my filters really fast. I never tried it in the sun, so I don't know if this would hurt them or not.

The main things to remember are:
1. Natural cleaners are best for this, as you'll be doing this outside, and you need to be mindful of what chemicals you put on/in the ground. What you use may run off into your town's drinking supply. Some products will be more preferred for this than others. If you must use a non-natural commercial cleaner, try Dawn dish detergent, diluted in water and poured in a spray bottle.
2. Let everything dry thoroughly before putting the unit back together, plugging it up, etc.
3. This is best done now, before the need for air conditioning becomes greater. I speak from experience when I say, you don't want to wait until the middle of a 95+ degree afternoon to HAVE to do this because your air conditioner quit cooling your house.
4. Clean your removable filters at least once a month, preferably every week or two. It will help your unit work better, and last longer. Try to clean them in the mornings, when the need for air conditioning isn't as great as late afternoon.

1 comment:

Brooklyn dryer vent cleaning said...

This is a wonderful article and I think all of us have to play responsible in cleaning our environment and look after he air conditioning cleaning regularly.