Before the heat of summer sets in, it is best to get your air conditioner's compressor ready for the season. Each spring, you should check, clean, and maintain the unit's coils and fins to help your air conditioner work as efficiently as possible. Here are instructions to help you do this.

Clean the Condenser Coils

Over time, wind and other weather can cause your condenser to become dirty inside from dirt and organic debris. While the condenser's fan is running, it can also pull debris into the unit that can coat the coils in a layer of debris, clogging them. As the coils in your air conditioner become dirty and covered in debris, they will not exchange heat properly to help cool your home. Your condenser will need to be cleaned in the spring prior to your using it to keep your air conditioner running as efficiently as possible. This is also a good time to trim back any vegetation at least two feet around your unit to help keep it internally clean.

Before you begin cleaning and maintaining your air conditioner's external condenser unit, you should disconnect the power from the unit by switching the power off at the condenser's outside electrical service disconnect box or at the electrical breaker in your home's fuse box. This will help prevent any electrocution to yourself during the maintenance and cleaning and also prevent the fans coming on while you are cleaning the condenser.

Next, you will need to remove the outer grill cover on the outside of the condenser, which helps to protect the condenser's coils from damage and excess debris. Remove any screws holding the cover in place and lift it from the condenser unit to expose the internal components. Be careful not to pull out and disconnect any wiring from the cover while you do this.

You can spray off the condenser coils using your garden hose, as this will not create too much force to damage your condenser's coils. It is not recommended to use a pressure washer on your air conditioner's condenser unit because the force from the spray can easily damage the coils.

You can also clean the coils using a sodium hydroxide cleaner, which is very acidic and can only be used to clean outdoor condensers. Be sure to wear protective work gloves, eye protection, and long sleeves and pants to keep the acidic cleaner off your skin. Mix up the cleaning solution with water in a garden sprayer, spray the cleaner onto the coils inside your condenser unit, and allow the cleaner to foam up, according to the product's directions. Spray off the cleaner using your garden hose. 

Straighten the Fins

The external fins on your air conditioner's condenser can become bent and misaligned from impact damage. Impact damage can occur from rocks thrown into the fins from a lawn mower or weed eater, or from hail damage. When the fins become bent, they cannot properly allow heat to vent outside from the coils inside your condenser. When this occurs, your air conditioner will need to work harder to keep your home cool. 

You can straighten bent sections of your condenser's fins with a fin straightener tool to help improve the efficiency of your air conditioner. You can find fin straightener tools at most home improvement stores. The fin straightener tool has a comb edge to fit between the fins as you slide it up their length, straightening bent fin sections. Make sure you use the right size fin straightener comb for your AC unit's fins. Measure one inch of the condenser's fins and count the number of fins located in that section. This number will give you the size of fin straighter tool you will need to straighten bent fins.

Once you have combed the fins straight on your condenser unit, you can spray them clean of any debris with your garden hose and a sprayer head. Then, once they are clean, replace the grill cover on your condenser unit and switch your air conditioner's power back on.

Your air conditioner's coils and fins are now ready to help keep your home cool. For more information on how to care for your air conditioner, contact a company like Sullivan Super Service.