DIY: How to Change Your Air Filter and Clean Your Own AC Unit
Posted on: August 24, 2017 | by: Will Housh
Though it can be helpful to involve an HVAC contractor in the installation or repair of your air conditioning unit, there are some things you may be interested in handling yourself! If you’re a do-it-yourselfer, below are tips for changing your air conditioner’s filter, as well as cleaning the unit itself. Remember, if you ever need the help of a professional, the HVAC.com contractor directory is just a click away.
Changing your Air Conditioning Filter
Changing your air conditioner filter is an essential step in maintaining your air filter. Lucky for you, it is very easy to do, and inexpensive compared to the problems that can arise from dirty filters! To ease any confusion…
Air Conditioner and Furnace Filters are the same thing.
However, you may hear it referred to as an “air conditioner filter” or “furnace filter” depending on the season.
Locate the filter compartment around your furnace.
Your filter compartment is probably covered with a strip of metal, which can be removed to insert or remove the filter.
Find out what size filter you’ll need for replacement.
On most filters, the dimensions are noted on the side of the filter and are usually noted in inches. If the measurements are not present, you can measure the filter yourself; measure length, width, and depth, rounding each measurement up to the nearest whole inch.
Purchase a replacement filter in the appropriate size.
Air filters for air conditioners range in efficiency levels, called MERV ratings; you’ll need to determine which is the best fit for your needs and system before purchasing. Higher efficiency filters may be preferable for those who live in warmer areas, dusty climates, or who are sensitive to household allergens.
Install the new air filter in the proper direction.
Note the direction of air flow that is marked on the edges of the old filter and install the new filter accordingly. To avoid installing filters in the wrong direction in the future, use a permanent marker to write the direction of air flow on the metal strip that covers the filter compartment for your reference.
Make yourself a reminder
Each manufacturer has its own recommendation on how often you should change your filter. Lower efficiency filters will require more frequent replacement than high-efficiency filters, and filters may require more frequent replacement during periods of heavy air conditioning use. Click here to see on average how often your filter should be changed.
Dispose of your old air conditioner filter.
Cleaning Your Air Conditioning Unit
Here at HVAC.com, we believe that the best approach is to work with a local, trustworthy heating and air conditioning contractor. However, if you’re the do-it-yourself type, you can clean your air conditioner unit with these essential maintenance steps that should be conducted each year. You can clean the exterior condenser as well as the accessible areas of the indoor evaporator. In just a few hours with no special tools, you can give your AC system the thorough cleaning it needs to work efficiently all cooling season. In order to accurately test your AC unit after you’ve performed cleaning tasks, it needs to be at least 60°F outdoors, so reserve performing maintenance tasks for a day when the weather is warm enough.
Cleaning your exterior condenser
Your outdoor condenser’s components can become caked with dirt and other debris, which can restrict the unit’s ability to cool your home by blocking air flow. Your main target for this cleaning is the fins, which are the thin metal blades that encase the unit. To clean your condenser, follow these steps:
- IMPORTANT! Turn off power to the unit at the exterior shutoff, also called a “disconnect”. Also, shut off power at your home’s electrical panel.
- Using a wet/dry vacuum with a soft-bristled attachment, vacuum away dirt, leaves, grass, and other debris from the fins.
- Remove all brush, vegetation, and debris from around the condenser.
- If any of the fins are bent, you can use a fin comb or other thin object to gently and carefully straighten them out. Be careful not to stick the knife more than a half-inch inside the unit or make contact with the (usually) copper tubes that carry the refrigerant.
- Remove the top grille, carefully lifting out the fan. Place it in a safe location and don’t pull at the electrical wires attached to it.
- Remove any debris from inside the unit and wipe the interior clean.
- From inside the unit using your garden hose, gently spray the fins. Be careful to only use moderate water pressure.
- Reinstall the fan.
- Turn the electricity to the unit back on at the outdoor switch and the electrical panel.
- Make sure your thermostat is set to ‘cool’ and lower the temperature setting below the current temperature to trigger the unit to turn on.
- After about 10 minutes, feel the tubing that runs from the condenser to the house to ensure the unit is working properly. The insulated tube should be cool to the touch and the uninsulated tube will be warmer.
Cleaning your interior air conditioning components
Dust and dirt can build up in your indoor air conditioning components, restricting efficiency and even diminishing your indoor air quality. Follow these steps to clean indoor areas of the system:
- IMPORTANT! Turn off the power to the unit at the furnace switch as well as at the main electrical panel.
- Remove your furnace filter and replace with a new one if necessary.
- Open the panel to expose the blower compartment.
- Gently vacuum away any dust and debris that have collected in the chamber.
- Locate the condensation drain tube and gently disconnect it. To prevent algae growth, you can either replace the tube or clean it using a bleach and water solution of a 1:16 ratio. Pour the solution through the tube.
- Clean the drain port using a soft-bristled brush or pipe cleaner to remove any debris which have collected here.
- Reconnect the drain tube.
- Turn the power back on at the furnace switch and at the electrical panel.
If you are uncomfortable performing any of these air conditioner cleaning steps or have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact a trusted HVAC professional. Also, remember that your air conditioner needs professional maintenance each season as well, so don’t forget to schedule your tune-up!