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Tips for Cleaning Your AC System

September 20, 2019

With summer winding down in the Bay Area, now is a good time to get a head start on air conditioner maintenance.

If you haven’t washed it recently, it could be blocked with dust and debris from your yard. This collection can decrease your unit’s efficiency and cause it to stop working. Or wear it down more quickly.

We suggest having your air conditioning system professionally maintained once a year. Why? A clean system can be more energy efficient, which could save you money on energy expenses.

Regular AC maintenance also helps our technicians discover and address minor issues before they become costly problems.

Related: How to Keep Your Air Conditioner from Failing

Some of the work we do consists of:

  • Inspecting the blower, motor, drain line and coils
  • Confirming pressure and temperature
  • Testing lines, refrigerant totals and connections

It’s not too late to have maintenance done this fall—and we can get your furnace ready for heating season too.

Schedule maintenance now


There’s also some upkeep you can do on your own between professional tune-ups. You only need about an hour to get the grime off your outdoor condenser unit, as well as a few components on your indoor HVAC system.

Related: How Often Should You Expect to Get Air Conditioning Service Done?

How to Clean Your Outside AC Unit

Choose a warm day to scrub your air conditioner. At least 60 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius) is great. That way, you can check the unit once you’ve cleaned it.

You’ll only need a few items:

  • Wet-dry vacuum and hose with a soft brush attachment
  • Screwdriver
  • Butter knife
  • Damp rag
  • Small, round paintbrush
  • Replacement furnace filter (if necessary)

Related: How AC Repair and Maintenance Can Actually Save You Money

5 Steps to Clean the Outside Unit

1. Turn Off the Power

Stop the juice to your air conditioner at the breaker box.

2. Clean the Outside

Take out waste from the unit. This includes branches, bushes, weeds and grass.

Then use the vacuum to cautiously clean the metallic fins. These parts are also known as condenser coils and move heat away from your system.

You need to be considerate of these delicate coils. Bent or crumpled fins can impact efficiency.

3. Fix Bent Fins

Use a butter knife to rearrange warped fins. You can also get a fin comb from an appliance parts website. A pro from Contra Costa Heating & AC should take care of large amounts of damage.

4. Clean the Inside

After removing the fan, dig out leaves and other yard rubbish. Then clean the inside of the equipment with a wet sponge.

The only coil cleaner you have to have is water. Use light pressure from a hose nozzle to wash the fins, spraying water from the inside out. Reinstall the fan once you’re finished.

5. Test Your Air Conditioner

It’s safe to restore power and turn your air conditioner back on. If it’s not operating properly, reach out to us a call at 510-343-9841.

Related: Air Conditioner Service: Pay a Little Now, Save Later

3 Steps to Clean the Indoor Unit

1. Turn Off the Power

Cut the electricity to your furnace at the breaker box.

2. Check Your Filter

Furnace filters must be exchanged every couple of months, depending on the kind you use.

Not sure when you last checked yours? Pull it out and hold it up to the light. If there’s no light visible, buy a new one.

3. Clean the Inside

Remove the blower door and vacuum up dust.

Then inspect your air conditioner’s drain line—it’s a flexible plastic tube. If it’s scummy, you can sanitize it by draining thinned bleach through the tube to flush the line. Or you can get a new tube.

Scrub the drain port using a small, round paintbrush. Connect the drain tube and switch the power back on.

Related: How to Keep Your Air Conditioner Running Well Through Fall

Never Forget a Tune-Up Again

Annual air conditioner maintenance from Contra Costa Heating & AC can make your unit more efficient and help it last longer. We also offer practical service agreements, so you won’t forget to book your regular maintenance!