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Tips for Cleaning Your AC System

September 20, 2019

With summer winding down in Portland, now is a good time to get ahead on air conditioner maintenance.

If you haven’t washed it this year, it could be full of mud and debris from your yard. This accumulation can decrease your unit’s efficiency and cause it to stop working. Or require replacement sooner.

We suggest having your air conditioning system professionally serviced every year. Why? A clean unit can be more energy efficient, which could save you money on energy costs.

Consistent AC maintenance also helps our technicians locate and take care of small issues before they develop into high-priced problems.

Related: How to Keep Your Air Conditioner from Failing

Some of the work we do involves:

  • Viewing the blower, motor, drain line and coils
  • Watching pressure and temperature
  • Reviewing lines, refrigerant levels and connections

It’s not too late to have service done this fall—and we can get your furnace prepped for heating season too.

Schedule maintenance now


There’s also some work you can do on your own between professional tune-ups. You just need about an hour to wash your outdoor condenser unit, as well as a couple of pieces on your indoor HVAC system.

Related: How Often Should You Expect to Get Air Conditioning Service Done?

How to Clean Your Outside AC Unit

Choose a temperate day to wash your air conditioner. At least 60 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius) is great. That way, you can test your equipment once you’ve cleaned it.

You’ll only need a handful of things:

  • Wet-dry vacuum and hose with a soft brush attachment
  • Screwdriver
  • Butter knife
  • Damp rag
  • Small, round paintbrush
  • Replacement furnace filter (if necessary)

Related: How AC Repair and Maintenance Can Actually Save You Money

5 Steps to Clean the Outside Unit

1. Turn Off the Power

Cut the power to your air conditioner at the breaker box.

2. Clean the Outside

Take out waste from the system. This includes branches, bushes, weeds and grass.

Then run the vacuum to cautiously clean the metallic fins. These pieces are also called as condenser coils and divert heat away from your equipment.

You need to be considerate of these fragile coils. Bent or crushed fins can affect efficiency.

3. Fix Bent Fins

Use a butter knife to adjust bent fins. You can also use a fin comb from an appliance parts store. A pro from Three Rivers Heating & Cooling should fix extensive damage.

4. Clean the Inside

After removing the fan, fish out leaves and other yard waste. Then mop the inside of the unit with a wet sponge.

The only coil cleaner you should use is water. Use gentle pressure from a hose nozzle to wash the fins, showering water from the inside out. Put the fan back in once you’re completed.

5. Test Your Air Conditioner

You can now restore power and turn your air conditioner back on. If it’s not running like it should, contact us a call at 503-213-4433.

Related: Air Conditioner Service: Pay a Little Now, Save Later

3 Steps to Clean the Indoor Unit

1. Turn Off the Power

Cut the juice to your furnace at the breaker box.

2. Check Your Filter

Furnace filters should be changed every couple of months, depending on the type you use.

Unsure when you last checked yours? Take it out and hold it up to the light. If light isn’t visible, replace it.

3. Clean the Inside

Remove the blower door and vacuum up dust.

Then inspect your air conditioner’s drain line—it’s a supple plastic tube. If it’s dirty, you can freshen it by draining diluted bleach through the tube to clean the line. Or you can replace the tube.

Clean the drain port using a small, round paintbrush. Hook up the drain tube and switch the power back on.

Related: How to Keep Your Air Conditioner Running Well Through Fall

Never Forget a Tune-Up Again

Annual air conditioner maintenance from Three Rivers Heating & Cooling can make your unit more efficient and help it last longer. We also provide practical service agreements, so you won’t forget to book your regular maintenance!