Your air conditioner's condenser is responsible for releasing heat taken from inside your home. The condenser is located in the outdoor unit and is made up of several different components, including condenser coils, a compressor, a fan and copper tubing.
The evaporator coil is located in the indoor unit and contains a liquid called refrigerant. The refrigerant absorbs heat from the warm air inside your home and is then circulated to the condenser coils in the outdoor unit.
From there, the heat inside the refrigerant is released into the outside air before it is returned to the evaporator coil to start the process over again.
How does a condenser get dirty?
Since the condenser unit is located outside, it is exposed to a lot of dirt, debris and weather elements. Over time, dirt will build up over the condenser coils.
Although this is natural, it's important that the condenser coils are cleaned regularly to ensure your air conditioner continues working efficiently. Dirty coils can cause problems if left unchecked.
What are the symptoms of a dirty condenser?
Look out for these telltale signs of dirty coils in your condenser unit:
Loud, unusual noises coming from the unit
Lots of fluid leaking from the unit (more than the usual condensation)
Inefficient cooling of your home
The importance of regular cleaning for your AC
If your air conditioner's condenser coils are too dirty, it will take longer for the refrigerant to release heat into the outside air. This means it will also take longer for your air conditioning unit to cool your home.
Having an inefficient air conditioning unit means you won't experience the benefits of fresh, cool air as quickly, but it also means your air conditioner will consume more energy to run. This could drive up your electricity costs.
If your outside unit is clogged, this could reduce the amount of airflow. Having not enough airflow could lead to breakdowns and costly repairs.
Can you clean an AC condenser yourself?
Regular cleaning of your outdoor unit and AC condenser coils can be done yourself if you know what you are doing. However, if you have no experience, getting a professional split system air conditioning service can give you peace of mind.
A specialist will make sure the cleaning is done in a safe and effective way. They may also be able to help spot and solve problems before they become too big.
How to clean an AC condenser
Follow the steps below to clean your outdoor air conditioning unit and AC condenser coils:
Step 1. Turn the power off.
Before you start cleaning your outside unit or your inside unit, it's important to switch off any power leading to the air conditioner. Turn off any power points the AC is plugged into, and if possible, turn it off at the circuit board too.
Step 2. Remove any plants, dirt and cobwebs.
Start by removing any plants or dirt that has built up on or around the outside unit. Use a soft brush or vacuum cleaner over the outer surface of the unit, especially around the air intake area.
Step 3. Remove the outer casing.
To clean the condenser coils, you will need to remove the outer casing of the AC unit. This will probably require a screwdriver. If you aren't sure what you are doing, stick to cleaning the outside and call a professional for a thorough clean inside the AC unit.
Step 4. Clean the condenser coils.
You may need to remove some other components to access the condenser coils. Start by brushing away any chunks of debris.
For any dirt that remains, use an environmentally friendly coil cleaner and follow the instructions on the packaging. You will likely need to rinse your AC coils and the inside of your condenser unit with fresh water from a garden hose.
Step 5. Check the coils for damage.
While you have the inside of your condenser unit exposed, check the fins on the condenser coils for any damage. Use a fin comb to straighten any bent fins, and remove any broken ones.
Other ways to look after your AC
Most of us rely on our air conditioners to keep us comfortable all year round, but many of us don't spend any time looking after our AC systems.
On top of cleaning your AC condenser coils and outdoor air conditioning unit, you should also: