Cleaning a Central Air Conditioner Cleaning a Central Air Conditioner
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Cleaning a Central Air Conditioner

How to clean an AC condenser and other tips for regular central air conditioner maintenance

change furnace filter©Don Vandervort, HomeTips

Change all filters that serve the air conditioner at least twice a year.

You should refer any serious central air conditioner problems such as a defective condenser or a malfunctioning refrigeration system to a trained air-conditioner technician. However, simply keeping the components clean helps prevent most common problems.

Replace or clean filters. Most systems have a replaceable or reusable filter in the furnace or air-handler cabinet (usually located inside or very near the air-inlet side). Some systems also employ air filters in the return-air registers inside the house. Replace disposable filters twice a year, or clean a reusable filter according to the manufacturer’s directions.

Clean the condenser unit. It is also important to keep the outdoor condenser unit clean and free of debris. Before doing this, you must shut off all power to the unit, both at the main panel and at the disconnect box located near the condenser.

Remove or trim any weeds or bushes around the condenser that might restrict airflow through the unit. Then use a screwdriver or nut driver to remove the access panels and the top of the unit. Because the fan unit is often attached to the top, you need to be careful not to stress the electrical wires connected to it.

Cleaning the blower’s fan blades will keep your air conditioner operating efficiently and quietly. Use a rag to wipe them off and scoop up or vacuum any debris at the base of the equipment.

HA2016 Air-Conditioners---Central (Buying)

Tighten the mounting bolts on the motor and lubricate any oil cups on the motor according to the manufacturer’s directions.


Use a hose with a spray nozzle to carefully clean the coils inside the condenser.

Next, use a soft brush and a vacuum to clean the coils from the outside and then from the inside of the unit. In most cases, there is dirt and debris caked in the recesses between the fins, and this can be very stubborn to remove. (See Preparing Your Air Conditioner for Summer for a complete walk-through of this process.)

For more about repairing an air conditioner, please see Central Air Conditioning Troubleshooting & Repairs.

If you would rather hire an air-conditioning pro to inspect and maintain your AC equipment, this FREE service will help you find a qualified local AC professional.

Call for free estimates from local pros now:

About Don Vandervort
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Don Vandervort developed his expertise more than 30 years ago as Building Editor for both Sunset Books and Home Magazine. He has written more than 30 home improvement books and countless magazine articles. He appeared regularly on HGTV’s “The Fix,” and served as MSN’s home expert. Don founded HomeTips in 1996.

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