How to Clean a Window A/C
So, it's that time of year again, when the temperatures go up over 80 degrees and we find ourselves melting from heat and humidity. The solution? Air conditioning. Maybe you're like me, and just don't have the money to run out and buy a new one. I am actually fortunate enough to have had a friend offer me an extra she had, with instructions to clean it first. OK, I have dust cloths and spray. What? No? First of all, she told me I had to take it apart and clean it with Simple Green, (the only thing you want to use on mold). I was able to remove the filter, clean in warm sudsy water, lay out to dry and reuse. Whether you are getting one out of your attic from last year or you've picked one up second-hand, you'll want to clean it. Here are the instructions to do so. Try it out, turn it on and stay cool!
- Start by removing the filter from the front grille. If it is a disposable type simply replace it with a new one. Other types are made in a plastic frame and can be cleaned and reused. To clean a reusable type lay it flat in the sink and sprinkle surface with laundry detergent. Then cover with about one inch of hot water. Just enough so the filter is submerged. Soak for 15 minutes. Remove from water and rinse with warm water. Hang up to dry while proceeding to next step.
- Next, remove the front grille from the main body of the air conditioner. They usually pivot on 2 spring clips at the bottom. It is usually removed by pulling the grille gently forward while pushing it down at the same time. If there is resistance then look for hidden screws. Look near the top edge of the grille or behind the control knob door. Once removed place the grille aside until later.
- Carefully remove metal cover of air conditioner to expose inner workings. Once all the screws are removed lift the cover straight up. Do not let it hit the other parts as it can have sharp edges.
This is where the old can comes in handy (ice cube container or muffin tin works well also). Use it to keep track of all the screws you will be removing. An air conditioner will often use a number of different types and sizes of screws. Segregate them from each other or confusion will result when we start reassembly.
4. Check the fan motor for any oil holes or oil plugs. If the motor has oil plugs they are usually rubber. Use caution when removing because the rubber may have become brittle. Often they will break off in the oil holes resulting in a blockage. If this occurs try to remove the broken plug by using a pin, or the tip of a small screwdriver.
Once the fan motor oil holes are exposed add a few drops of oil to each end of the motor body. Use a general purpose (3in1) oil or clean motor oil. A #30 oil is sufficient. The natural tendency is to over-oil. Too much lubrication is as bad as not enough. Therefore only 3 or 4 drops on both ends of the motor body is sufficient. Add the oil slowly, pausing a few seconds between each drop. If you add it too quickly over-lubrication will result.
5. Use the brush to remove surface dust and dirt from the evaporator (front fins). Use an up and down motion. Do not go side to side or allow the fins to be bent over. The fins are very soft aluminum and can be easily damaged.
Once surface dirt is removed, spray with de-greaser or cleaner. There is a good product on the market called HVAC cleaner. As the name implies it is meant for Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioner coil cleaning. If this is not available Fantastic spray cleaner used in kitchens and bathrooms works quite well. Let stand about 15 minutes or as per instructions on de-greaser can. This will allow cleaner to loosen any hidden dirt. Remove dirt and excess cleaner by slowly pouring warm water into fins. Do not allow the water to enter any electrical connections or components that may be near the coil. As an added precaution cover the motor with one of the cloth rags. to protect it from the water. Do not use any form of high pressure air or water because this can drive dirt farther into fins. Also, use extreme caution as these coils are filled with high pressure refrigerant.
When completely dry plug in air conditioner and test operation. If everything appears okay unplug and reassemble. Once reassembly is complete, retest operation to ensure replacing the cover has not affected anything. Adding the cover will tend to twist the frame and can cause interior parts to move out of alignment. This can cause the fan to become noisy. To correct for this problem remove the cover and realign to the main body of the air conditioner.
Reinstall the cover and test for noises every time 2 or 3 additional screws are added to the cover. Finally, cover air conditioner with plastic wrap or an old blanket. Store in a warm dry area. Raise it from floor slightly by placing onto a couple of pieces of wood. This will protect the floor from the metal edges of the air conditioner, and also protect the air conditioner from moisture. Repeat this simple procedure yearly. If you do, the machine will be ready for many more years of dependable service.
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- Joanne Loftus