Air conditioning units are crucial to maintaining comfortable indoor temperatures, especially during the sweltering summer months. However, these systems require regular upkeep to function efficiently and last longer. This comprehensive guide will provide you with valuable insights into DIY maintenance of your air conditioner and when to call in the professionals.

Understanding Your HVAC System

An HVAC (Heating, Ventilating, and Air-Conditioning) system typically comprises an interior unit (evaporator and blower) and an exterior unit (condenser coil and compressor). Your system may include a furnace and AC or a heat pump, which both heats and cools. Understanding the working of these components can help you undertake basic maintenance tasks.

Importance of Regular AC Maintenance

Regular upkeep of your air conditioner not only saves you energy costs but also extends its lifespan, saving you the expense of early replacement. Moreover, a well-maintained AC unit ensures a healthier indoor environment by removing excess moisture from the air, thereby minimizing the growth of mold and allergens.

Preparing for AC Maintenance

Before you commence the maintenance of your air conditioner, ensure you have the necessary tools and safety equipment. This includes a screwdriver or wrench, a powerful shop vacuum with a brush attachment, a garden hose, a fin cleaning spray, a butter knife, and a wet/dry vacuum. Always remember to shut off the power to the unit before starting any maintenance work.

Easy Steps to Maintain Your AC Unit

A. Powering Off Your AC Unit

For safety reasons, it’s crucial to completely turn off power to the unit. This can be done at the exterior shut-off box near the unit and the breaker box inside.

B. Clearing Debris

Start by removing the fan cage on the exterior condenser/compressor unit. Using your hands or a wet/dry vacuum, clear all debris from the interior.

C. Cleaning the Fins

Remove the outer covers and use the brush attachment on the vacuum to remove all outside dirt. Use a garden hose to spray through the fins from the inside out, removing any built-up dirt or debris. If the fins are especially dirty, use a fin cleaning spray.

D. Straightening the Fins

Carefully straighten any bent fins using a butter knife or a fin-straightening tool. Be gentle to avoid damaging the tubing within the fins.

E. Cleaning the Area Around the Unit

After cleaning, replace the fan cage. Ensure there’s no debris, plant growth, or other objects within a 2 ft radius around the unit. During the winter months, when the unit is not in use, cover the top with a piece of plywood or plastic to prevent debris from falling in.

F. Leveling the Unit

Over time, the pad where the condenser unit sits can begin to tip as the soil settles beneath it. An out-of-level condenser unit can cause the compressor to fail early. Check the unit’s level and use rot-resistant shims to bring it back to level.

G. Cleaning the Evaporator Coil

On the indoor blower/furnace unit, find the evaporator coil door and open it. Use a soft brush to dust off the coil, then spray it with a no-rinse coil cleaner. Clean out the drain pan with soap, hot water, and a little bleach.

H. Cleaning the Evaporator Drain

Over time, the evaporator drain can get clogged due to the buildup of algae and mold, and it needs to be unplugged. Use a wet/dry vacuum to clear the drain.

I. Changing the Blower Filter

The filter should be changed at least twice a year — once just before the heating season and once before the cooling season. Replace the old filter with a new one that has the same airflow rating.

Restarting Your AC Unit

After you’ve completed all the steps above, your AC unit should be cleaner and more efficient at controlling the temperature. You can now turn on the power and test if it’s working correctly.

Tasks for Professional Maintenance

While many AC maintenance tasks can be performed by homeowners, some require professional expertise. These include sizing your air conditioning system, regular inspections and maintenance, handling electrical issues, and dealing with compressor short-cycling.

Why Annual HVAC Maintenance is Important

Regular HVAC maintenance can result in several benefits, including reduced repair bills, lower energy bills, prevention of total breakdown, extended equipment life, and safer system operation.

Frequently Asked Questions

This section will address common queries regarding maintaining the right temperature at home, the ideal level of indoor humidity, reducing energy bills, the correct interval for checking your air filter, and the worth of a programmable thermostat.

AC Maintenance Checklist

The checklist will guide you on how to keep your HVAC system working efficiently. The list will include tasks related to the outdoor unit and the indoor unit.


Air conditioner maintenance is crucial for efficient functioning and longevity of the system. While some AC maintenance tasks can be performed by homeowners, it’s necessary to have an expert technician inspect the system periodically to prevent major or emergency issues. Regular HVAC service ensures that your system doesn’t breakdown and saves you from expensive repairs later.

If you are unsure how to do it on your own, get help from a professional from Zonar! We have experienced Experts capable of air conditioner repair, service and installation.

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