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How to Maintain Your Air Conditioner's Condenser Coil

an air conditioner
Your central air conditioner is a complex system, but one of its most important components is the condenser coil. The condenser coil releases the heat that has been captured from your home into the outside atmosphere, and anything that impairs the condenser coil’s functioning can keep your unit from cooling.
The most important condenser maintenance task is to regularly clean the condenser coil. A dirty coil can create operating inefficiencies as well as place stress on the air conditioner. In addition, bent cooling fins that line the coil can also prevent heat from transferring. These coils are easy to bend and often increase in number from year-to-year, which makes the problem worse as time passes.
The good news is that homeowners can clean air conditioner condenser coils and straighten cooling fins if they follow a few guidelines and work cautiously. Below is how to perform these fairly simple condenser coil maintenance tasks.
1.  Disconnect Power to the System
Before performing any work, you should disconnect electrical power to prevent the possibility of electrical shock. While electrocution isn't likely, cleaning the coil involves the use of water and the wisest choice is to eliminate the hazard. You can disconnect the power to the unit from the outside unit itself. Locate the main power switch on the nearest exterior wall and flip it off.
2. Remove Large Debris from the Condenser Coil
The condenser coil lines much of the entire exterior of the outdoor unit and is surrounded by a wire guard to prevent damage to the coil. However, you will be able to access large bits of debris from the coil by picking between the wires with a pair of large tweezers or needle nose pliers.
In addition, a shop vacuum is helpful for removing loose debris — use the shop vacuum with a brush attachment to lightly rub the coil and knock debris from the coil. Be careful not to press against the coil, as you can easily damage the sensitive fins by pushing too hard.
3. Soak the Coil with Cleaning Solution
After you have removed the largest pieces of debris by hand or with your vacuum, the next step is to soak the coil with a cleaning solution. Commercial coil cleaning solutions can be purchased from an air conditioning parts house or online and may need to be diluted with water before using. Make sure you read the directions on the container before using the solution.
Once the cleaning solution is ready to use, pour it into a pump-up sprayer and apply it to the entire outside surface of the condenser coil. Generously spray the solution so the solution drips from the coil when you finish. Next, allow the cleaning solution to soak into the coils for the amount of time recommended by the manufacturer.
4. Rinse the Coil Thoroughly
Once the coil has soaked in the cleaning solution, use a garden hose to rinse the coil. Do not use a nozzle, as the pressure can bend the fins. Instead, allow water to flow from the hose at low pressure and keep rinsing until the coil is clear of any of the solution. Allow the coil to air dry before moving to the next step.
5. Straighten the Coil Fins
The last step in the process is to straighten the coil fins. A fin straightening comb can be purchased from air conditioner parts suppliers and is the tool-of-choice for straightening fins.
When using the comb, work slowly and carefully. Too much force will break the fins or may even puncture the coil. Periodically stop and inspect your work and keep straightening where necessary. Keep in mind that coils may not appear perfectly straight once straightened; this does not harm the function of the fins, as almost any degree of straightening is beneficial.
If you have questions about your air conditioner, including its condenser coil and performing maintenance, be sure to contact Matthew Roberts Incorporated for help. Their team of professionals is ready to assist you with whatever concerns you may have.