Ensuring that your AC compressor is clean and free of dirt and debris is an essential part of keeping it well maintained. If you have your air conditioning professionally maintained every year as recommended, you shouldn’t ever really need to worry about cleaning the compressor unit since this is a part of routine preventative maintenance. If not, then your compressor may eventually become dirty to the point where it starts to freeze up or experience other issues that prevent it from properly cooling your home. At Accurate Home Services, we often hear from clients asking if pressure washing their AC compressor is ok so we thought we’d clear this up once and for all. The answer is most definitely not—a pressure washer is far too powerful and will most likely ruin your compressor if you try to do it.
What Can Happen If You Pressure Wash Your Air Conditioner
Pressure washers are incredibly useful for certain cleaning tasks. They are quite handy for cleaning your driveway or deck or for spraying dirt off of your siding. A pressure washer can even be used for washing windows, but it definitely should never go near your outdoor AC unit.
The inside of the AC compressor has lots of sensitive electronics and wiring. If water comes into contact with the wires or the motor, it can cause serious damage and lead to a hefty repair bill. There is also a chance you could ruin the unit altogether and need to have it replaced.
In addition to damaging the wiring, there is also a high chance that you will damage the condenser coil, fins or refrigerant lines. These are all made of aluminum or copper, which are extremely soft and definitely won’t be able to withstand all of that water pressure. Most likely you will end up putting a hole in the condenser coil or bending the fins so that the coil doesn’t work properly.
The Importance of Cleaning Your AC
Dirt and debris can interfere with an air conditioner in numerous ways. Dirt on the condenser coil will act like insulation and prevent the coil from releasing heat. This can cause the coil to freeze, which will prevent the system from cooling your home. It may also cause the unit to overheat, which can lead to numerous other potentially serious problems. Dirt and debris can also become packed around the grilles on the sides of the compressor, and this will also interfere with its ability to properly release the heat from inside the building.
The best way to avoid all of these potential problems is to make sure that you keep your AC compressor clean, and the easiest way to do this is to have your unit serviced every year. Not only will this ensure everything is clean but it will also improve the efficiency of your unit and can even extend its lifespan.
How to Clean Debris Clogging the Sides of the AC Compressor
There are some cleaning tasks that are relatively simple enough for you to do on your own. Cleaning out dirt and debris from the sides of the unit is one such task. If you have an older AC unit, the sides are most likely open with the grilles exposed. In this case, all you need to do is vacuum or sweep off any debris that is stuck in the grilles.
Many newer ACs have perforated metal panels that cover the sides of the unit. These panels help to prevent most debris from getting in and clogging up the grilles. Some leaves and other debris can still get inside. The fluff from cottonwood trees, poplars and dandelions can be a huge problem as it is light enough to get sucked into the sides of the unit when the fan runs.
If your AC unit has metal panels on the sides, you will first need to unscrew and remove these. You can then vacuum or otherwise clean the grilles so that air can properly flow through them. After cleaning, make sure to securely reattach the panels or else they could vibrate and create loud rattling or buzzing noises.
Cleaning the Condenser Coils
Most AC manufacturers recommend that you don’t attempt to clean the inside of the unit or do any other work on it yourself. That being said, you can clean the inside of the unit and the condenser coils yourself provided you are extremely careful and pay close attention to what you’re doing. However, this generally is not recommended if your air conditioner is still under warranty. Most AC warranties specify that all work must be done by a certified HVAC technician or else the warranty is automatically void. If you attempt to clean the unit yourself and it gets damaged in the process, it is likely that you’ll have to pay for any necessary repairs out of your own pocket.
If you still want to clean the unit on your own, you’ll need to start by switching the system off. It is always best to both turn the AC off at the thermostat and switch off the circuit breaker that controls the system. The next step is to remove the top grate that covers the fan. On many units, the fan blades and motor are connected to this grate. In either case, you will need to carefully lift out the fan assembly making sure not to damage the wiring. Once the fan is removed, you will see the condenser coils and the compressor.
If there is any dirt and debris inside the unit, this can be removed using your vacuum and a brush head attachment. Before proceeding any further, you will need to use plastic and tape to fully cover the motor and all of the electrical wiring. This is important for preventing water from coming into contact and damaging any of the electrical components.
If you’re going to try to clean the condenser coil, we always recommend using an approved condenser coil cleaner. These are heavy-duty foaming detergents that are specifically designed for the task and will do a far better job of cleaning than anything else. Before spraying the cleaner on the coils, it’s a good idea to use a can of condensed air to blast any dirt out of the fins.
Spray the cleaner on the coils and fins, and then let it sit for at least 15 minutes. You can then use your hose or a few cups of water to thoroughly rinse the fins and coil. Once you are satisfied that everything is clean, wait at least 30 minutes or an hour to make sure everything is dry before removing the plastic and reassembling the unit.
Reliable, Professional AC Maintenance Services
If you need to have your AC cleaned, serviced or repaired, Accurate Home Services is always ready to help. We have been serving customers in the Kaufman area for 30 years, and we are committed to providing the highest quality HVAC and other home services. We install, repair and service central AC units, furnaces, heat pumps and all other residential heating and cooling equipment from any manufacturer. Our team of licensed electricians is also here for any necessary repairs or other electrical needs. To learn more about the benefits of cleaning your AC or to schedule an inspection and tune-up, give us a call today!