Condenser Cleaning

Clean your condenser once or twice a year

If you have a central air conditioning system that you're responsible for maintaining you need to think about condenser cleaning. The condenser pulls the heated air out of your home and into the outdoors, which is why it is placed outside. If the condenser is dirty it cannot operate efficiently. When it has to work harder, you see the difference in your monthly energy bill.

Condenser Cleaning Process

The first thing you should do is take a look at the area in a three foot radius of your condenser. If there are plants or debris on any side of the air conditioner unit, relocate or discard them. They will block the airflow. Also, remove anything that is sitting on top of the unit. Air releases from the condenser here too. Once you've done this, proceed to the following steps:

  1. Unplug the air conditioner or shut it the power to it.
  2. Pull any large debris, such as leaves or sticks, out of the condenser coil by hand.
  3. Unscrew the grill covering the condenser, if needed, and set it aside.
  4. Get a rough bristled brush, like a coil brush, a natural hairbrush or an old toothbrush, to use for getting dust, lint and pollen out of the fins.
  5. Hold the brush sideways and gently brush in the direction the fins are angled. This will loosen the buildup.
  6. Turn your garden hose on a low setting and spray the backside of the coil by aiming the hose through the vent in the top of the unit.
  7. Let the unit air dry.
  8. Spray the condenser with a coil cleaner, which you can buy at a home improvement store.
  9. Wait five minutes for the coil cleaner to evaporate.
  10. Replace the grill, if applicable, and restore power to the unit.

When you brush out the fins wear long sleeves, protective gloves and a dust mask. Since you don't know what's trapped in the coils, it's best to not touch it or inhale it.


Some newer air conditioner units have their grills bolted on instead of screwed on. If you have such a unit, do not attempt to remove the grill to perform condenser cleaning unless you have mechanical training. It can be difficult to put it back on. You can still use the coil cleaner, which should do an adequate job in most cases.

Keeping the Condenser Clean

You don't have to add condenser cleaning to your list of daily cleaning tasks. It only needs a thorough cleaning once or twice a year, even if you live in a very balmy climate. If you don't feel comfortable cleaning the condenser yourself, you can hire a contractor to do it

One of the best things you can do to prevent having to perform condenser cleaning more than twice a year is to cover the condenser unit during months when you don't need it. This will keep snow, ice melt and salt and other potentially harmful particles out. It's a good idea to clean it right before you cover it. Just let it air dry first.

If your air conditioner didn't come with a specially fitted cover, place plastic sheeting over top of it and secure the sheeting with a bungee cord. Just don't forget to remove the cover in the spring before you turn the unit back on.

Cleaning your condenser is not guaranteed to increase the efficiency of your unit. Sometimes the inefficiency is caused by a different problem, such as a Freon leak. If you're having trouble with your unit even after you clean it, contact a licensed repair facility and ask to have someone come out and take a look at it.

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