How to Clean and Test Your AC System in Indiana

Clean and test AC

Your central air conditioner equipment requires maintenance to preserve efficiency and cool your home throughout the summer. Cleaning you air conditioning indoor unit and outdoor unit protects parts from dirt and debris that can restrict air circulation through the AC unit and cause other performance problems that hamper the system’s cooling power.

Williams Comfort Air explains all steps to clean your air conditioner and test the HVAC system when you’re finished. Learn how to clean the condenser unit, evaporator coil, condenser coils, air handler, fan motor, and drain.

How to Clean the AC Condenser

The condenser unit is the outdoor unit of a split system air conditioner. This unit is connected to the indoor unit by refrigerant lines, and it houses the condenser coil, compressor, condenser fan and fan motor, and certain electrical components. The condenser unit often becomes dirty as debris pile up around the outdoor unit and cling to the fins along its exterior. These debris block airflow through the condenser which is needed to release heating energy outside as part of the cooling process.

Follow these instructions to clean your air conditioner condenser:

  1. Turn the power off to the condenser at the home’s electrical panel. Also turn off the power at the power switch on the AC condenser.
  2. Use a soft brush to remove debris that have gathered on the fins. You can also clean the fins using a vacuum.
  3. Pull out weeds, trim back bushes, and remove all vegetation from the two-foot area immediately surrounding the outdoor unit.
  4. Use a fin comb or household knife to straighten any fins that are crushed or bent.
  5. Remove screws from the grille at the top of the condenser and set it aside. Take care not to damage the attached fan and connected wiring.
  6. Use a garden hose and spray the fins from the inside to clean away dirt and dust.
  7. If your air conditioner is older and the fan motor has oil ports, now is a good time to perform some maintenance and oil the motor. Add electric motor oil to the oil ports until they are filled.
  8. Replace the fan and cover grille to the condenser.
  9. Turn the power on at the main electrical panel and at the unit power switch.

How to Clean the Condenser Coil

Condenser coils sit within the condenser unit. The condenser coils receive pressurized refrigerant from the compressor and are responsible for releasing heat from refrigerant into the outdoor air. The condenser coils are one of two sets of AC coils – the evaporator coil is the indoor counterpart. Dirt, dust, and debris can collect upon the coils and reduce their efficiency, requiring cleaning at least one time per year. This maintenance service can also be performed by your HVAC company.

  1. Turn off the power to the condenser at the main panel inside your home as well as at the condenser power switch.
  2. Straighten fins along the condenser exterior using a fin comb.
  3. Remove the grille and attached fan at the top of the unit to access the interior of the condenser.
  4. Use a vacuum and soft brush to remove dirt, dust, and debris from the condenser coils. Or, use compressed air to remove this debris and remove it from inside the condenser using a vacuum.
  5. Use a solution of dish soap and water or a commercial condenser coil cleaning solution and apply it to the coils with a soft brush or sponge, or use a spray bottle to apply the cleaner.
  6. Rinse condenser coils with a garden hose sprayer, spraying straight and down to avoid bending fins.
  7. Allow the outdoor components to dry.
  8. Replace the fan and cover grille.
  9. Turn the power on to the condenser unit at the main panel and power switch.

How to Clean Your Air Conditioner Evaporator Coil

The evaporator coil sits within the indoor air conditioning equipment, which is either an air handler, fan coil unit, or furnace. The evaporator is vital to the cooling process as it absorbs heating from indoor air to cool the air. Mold can grow on the coils or dust, dirt, and debris form grime on the indoor coils, reducing operating efficiency during cooling season.

  1. Turn off the power to your indoor air conditioner equipment at the main electrical panel as well as the switch on the outside of the unit.
  2. Remove the access panel to the air handler or furnace compartment to access the evaporator.
  3. Use a soft brush to remove debris from the evaporator coil. Do not use compressed air as this may blow particles into the home, hampering clean air. Remove debris from within the indoor unit using a vacuum.
  4. Apply a commercial no-rinse cleaner along the surface of the evaporator coil. Spray the solution to evenly coat the coils entirely. There is no need to rinse the coils, as the solution will drip into the drain pan.
  5. Replace the access panel.
  6. Turn the power on at the main panel and unit switch.

How to Clean the Air Conditioner Drain Pan & Condensate Drain Line

The drain pan sits below the evaporator coil within the air handler, furnace, or fan coil unit inside the house. Condensation that forms on the evaporator drips below into the drain pan which catches this runoff and collects it so it can drain away from the indoor AC unit. Mold and algae can grow in the drain pan and dirt and debris from the air can also collect here, both of which can cause clogs in the drain tube that stop condensation from draining away.

  1. Turn off the power at the home main panel and the indoor AC unit switch.
  2. Remove the access panel to the air handler or furnace chamber to find the evaporator AC coils and locate the drain pan below.
  3. Use a wet/dry vacuum to remove any water standing in the drain pan.
  4. Use dish soap and warm water or vinegar to clean the drip pan.
  5. Optional: Add an HVAC pan tablet to the drip pan, which helps prevent the growth of algae and mold.
  6. Replace the access panel.

Moisture from the drip pan is able to drain out of the air conditioning unit or air handler through the condensate drain line. Condensate lines empty outdoors, typically near the condenser, or into a nearby floor drain or sink. Dirt and debris from the air supply can make their way into the lines, forming clogs that prevent air conditioners from draining.

  1. Locate the drain port where the drip pan attaches to the condensate drain tube.
  2. Use a pipe cleaner or thin wire brush and insert it into the tube port to loosen debris and clean the port.
  3. Find the exit point of the condensate drain line tube where moisture empties out of the air conditioner drain.
  4. Attach a wet/dry vacuum hose around the drain tube opening and run the vacuum for two to three minutes to extract clogs and debris.
  5. Locate the access point to the drain tube lines nearby the indoor unit, which looks like a section of vertical piping or T-vent coming off the condensate drain line with a PVC cap.
  6. Remove the drain cap and clean the drain tube and lines to prevent new clogs. Use a soap and water solution, vinegar, or one cup of bleach and pour it into the access point.
  7. Replace the cap to the access port.
  8. Turn the power on at the main electrical panel and switch on the unit.

How to Clean the HVAC Blower and Fan

The blower assembly consists of a motor and fan that sits inside the indoor air handler or furnace. The blower is tasked with circulating air to cool your home. Return air flows through the filter into the unit, moving over the evaporator where heat is removed – the cooled air then moves to the blower, where the blower fan motor turns the fan to push air through supply ducts and into the home.

Dust, dirt, and other particles can settle in the blower from the air supply, reducing efficiency by restricting blower operation and lowering airflow rates through the central air conditioner.

  1. Turn off the power to the blower at the electrical panel and unit switch.
  2. Remove access panel to the blower chamber.
  3. Unscrew the circuit board in front of the blower if appliance and leave wires attached. Set aside.
  4. Remove the bolts holding the blower in place and slide the blower assembly out of the compartment.
  5. Unscrew and remove the blower assembly cover and wipe down with a cloth.
  6. Use a warm water and bleach solution and a cloth to wipe down fan blades and the air inlet to the blower fan motor. Use a soft brush if needed to remove hard debris deposits.
  7. Use a vacuum to remove all debris from the interior of the blower compartment.
  8. Reassemble blower with its cover, position the blower back in the chamber and bolt it into place. Reinstall the circuit board and replace the access panel.
  9. Turn the power on at the electrical main panel and unit switch.

How to Test Your Air Conditioner

Anytime you clean your air conditioner, it’s important to test the AC unit afterwards to ensure the air conditioning system is working correctly and nothing was damaged during cleaning. Clean and test AC equipment as needed, at least once per year.

  1. Make sure power is on to all units at the main panel and each unit switch.
  2. Adjust thermostat temperature below the current room temperature which will tell the air conditioner to start cooling.
  3. Allow the AC system to run for several minutes and observe it for unusual noises, new odors, and airflow from vents.
  4. Reprogram thermostat settings to your desired settings.

If issues are discovered when you test the air conditioning, shut off the system and call for HVAC repairs.

Air Conditioner Maintenance in Indianapolis

Williams Comfort Air provides air conditioner maintenance services throughout the Indianapolis area. Schedule an appointment today to have our technicians tune up and clean your air conditioner to improve efficiency and performance.

Subscribe for Savings and Tips in Your Email!