Can You Safely Pressure Wash Your Air Conditioner?

Clean AC unit in Charlotte, NC

Keeping your outdoor AC condenser unit clean in the Greater Charlotte area is an important part of air conditioner maintenance. If the sides of the unit become clogged with debris or the condenser coil or fins are dirty, it can negatively impact the unit’s energy efficiency and performance. It may also cause the condenser to freeze up in which case you’ll have no air conditioning at all until the system is fully thawed. At Integrity Heating & Cooling, we often have clients asking us whether it is safe to pressure wash their AC condenser, and the answer to this is a resounding no for all these reasons.

Why Pressure Washing Your AC Is Always a Bad Idea

Pressure washers are designed for deep cleaning, and they are great for blasting dirt and grime off your house, porch, and sidewalks. However, they should never go anywhere near your air conditioner. Pressure or power washers produce several thousand psi of pressure, and this amount of water pressure is almost guaranteed to damage your air conditioner.

If you attempt to pressure wash your AC condenser, you will most likely damage the fragile fins and coils as they are made of either soft copper or aluminum. At the very least, you will probably bend or warp the coils, which will reduce the unit’s effectiveness. All that pressure could also blast a hole through the coils, or the copper refrigerant lines. This will cause refrigerant to leak out, which will raise the pressure inside the system and can cause it to freeze up or experience a variety of other issues.

As you’re surely aware, water and electricity don’t mix very well, and pressure washing your AC condenser will also likely damage or ruin its electrical components. With all that pressure, there is simply no way that you will be able to fully protect the wiring and electrical components from being exposed to water.

How to Safely Clean Your Air Conditioner

Now that you know why pressure washing your AC is a terrible idea, let’s look at how you can go about safely cleaning the unit. Before doing anything else, you’ll first want to make sure the power is shut off to the system at your electrical panel. This is important to make sure the unit doesn’t turn on while you’re cleaning it and to prevent any electrical issues that could occur when you’re washing the condenser coils. To power off the unit, simply find the breaker that controls your air conditioning and flip it to the off position.

With the electricity off, you will then want to remove the top of the unit so you can access the fan. Once the top is off, you may also need to remove the fan assembly so you can access the condenser coils depending on the type of unit you have. If you do have to do this, you’ll need to be extremely careful to make sure you don’t damage any wiring.

You can clean the fan blades themselves by wiping them down with a damp rag or simply brushing the dirt off them with a broom. You may also want to use a vacuum with a brush attachment to suck up any debris inside the unit. After that, you will want to fully cover the motor and all the wires with plastic wrap and secure it tightly with tape. This will prevent any water from encountering the electrical components.

You can then clean the condenser coils by gently spraying them with soapy water. Alternatively, you can use either coil cleaner spray or a can of compressed air to blow any dirt off the coils. If you’re using soapy water or cleaner spray, let it sit for around 15 minutes, and then carefully rinse the coils with your garden hose or a small container of water. When cleaning, you should also inspect the fins to make sure none of them are bent. If you do see any bent fins, you can use a fin comb or a small flat screwdriver to carefully bend them back in place.

You will also need to make sure that the sides of the condenser aren’t clogged with dirt or debris. Leaves, pine needles, and other debris can collect around the sides of the unit. Even worse is the fluff from poplar trees, cottonwoods, and dandelion seeds. When this debris becomes packed around the sides of the unit, it restricts the airflow and prevents the heat the system absorbs from inside the building from escaping. This can potentially cause the unit to overheat or freeze up.

Most older AC units only have open grates or grilles on the sides. In this case, all you need to do is use your vacuum or hose to clear any debris stuck in the grilles. On newer AC units, you may need to remove the panels on the sides to access the grilles.

After everything is washed and clean, you should then wait for everything to completely dry before reassembling the unit and turning it back on. Before reassembling, don’t forget to remove the plastic from the wires and motor.

How Often Should You Clean Your AC?

Your air conditioner should be cleaned at least once a year, and it is always best to do the cleaning early in the spring before you turn your AC on for the summer. If you live in an overly dusty area or have lots of pine needles, fluff and other debris clogging the unit, you may need to clean your AC once or twice more throughout the summer.

While cleaning your AC is something you can do on your own, you can save yourself time and hassle by having your system professionally maintained every spring. A technician will not only inspect every single aspect of the system as part of the AC tune-up, but they will also fully clean the condenser unit and the evaporator coils. They will also lubricate all moving parts and make any adjustments necessary to ensure that the system is operating at its peak efficiency and effectiveness.

The benefits of annual AC maintenance are impossible to overstate. Scheduling a tune-up each spring is the easiest way to lessen the need for future repairs, reduce your cooling costs and protect the life of your system.

AC Services You Can Trust

If you’re in need of air conditioning maintenance or repairs Integrity Heating & Cooling has got you covered. We have been helping residents in the Greater Charlotte area with their air conditioning needs for more than 35 years. Our NATE-certified technicians work on all brands of air conditioners, and we also service and repair heat pumps, furnaces, ductless mini-splits, and other types of residential and commercial HVAC equipment. Integrity Heating & Cooling is both a Trane Certified Dealer and a Lennox Premier Dealer, and we can also help you with replacing your old unit or installing a new heating or cooling system.

If you have any questions about cleaning your air conditioner, need repair services, or want to schedule a maintenance appointment, give us a call today.

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