How to Clean Outside Air Conditioning Units

The outdoor unit of a central air conditioner system needs to be kept clean in order to maintain peak efficiency. Obstructed air flow into the outside unit means a decrease in efficiency and forces the air conditioner to work harder and longer. This means increased power bills and decreased energy efficiency. Regular cleaning will help keep air flow clean and unobstructed.

Keeping the outside unit of your air conditioner clean will improve its efficiency.
  1. Remove vines that are growing up the unit. Vines can work behind and over the outside structure and make it harder for air to flow freely into the unit. Pull out any leaves that have become caught in the grille. Prune back any shrubs or plants near the outdoor equipment that could obstruct air flow or be the source of leaves that can get caught in the exterior of the unit or fall through the grille on top and damage the fan blades.

  2. Turn off the power to the air conditioner at the main service panel. Unscrew the top panel of the outdoor unit and remove it. Remove the screws that connect the side panel to the top panel and to the frame of the condenser unit.

  3. Use a garden hose to spray water through the condenser coil fins. Begin by spraying water inside the unit toward the outside. Spray the outside of the coil fins next. Dislodge as much dirt as possible.

  4. Use an old hairbrush to further clean the fins. Draw the brush down in the same direction as the slots between the fins so you easily work the bristles of the brush between the fins. Wear a dust mask for protection if the fins prove to produce a substantial amount of dust. Spray a commercial household cleanser into the coils and allow it to sit for about five minutes. Lightly spray the coil interior through the fan opening at the top. Don't allow the spray to get too harsh as this could damage the fins.

  5. Inspect the fins closely for signs of damage and bending. Use a tool known as a fin comb to straighten out bent fins. Pull the fin comb gently through the fins beginning just above any damaged areas.

  6. Wipe the fan blades of the outside unit with a plain cloth rag. Use a vacuum clean to suck up any debris that has collected at the bottom of the unit.

About the Author

Timothy Sexton's more than 10,000 articles have been published on sites ranging from USA Today to CareerAddict, from PopEater to TakeLessons.com. His writing has been referenced in books ranging from "The Reckless Life...of Marlon Brando" to "Brand New China: Advertising, Media and Commercial and from Scarface Nation to Incentive!"