Air conditioners provide filtered, cool air to your home during the heat of summer. To ensure that your Carrier air conditioner functions efficiently, clean the unit at least annually. The dirt, dust and moisture from day-to-day living plus dirt, vegetation and plant debris outside can impair the unit's ability to provide a comfortable environment for you and your family when summer ramps up to hot, hotter and record-breaking temperatures.
Clear the Area Around Unit
Turn off the air conditioner and let it cool off before you begin. Provide extra circulation around the outer part of the air conditioning system by removing vegetation growing within 2 to 3 feet. Prune shrubs, trim back vines and cut the grass to give the unit room to breathe. Remove all dead leaves and debris on and around the outer covering with a soft brush or broom or use a low-pressure hose end sprayer to wash it off.
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Add a mild dishwashing liquid solution to the sprayer and carefully spray the exposed cover and coils. Never use a high-pressure sprayer because it can bend and damage the coils and fins. Repeat as needed to remove dirt and debris. Rinse with the hose.
Turn Off the Power
Before opening the inner part of the air conditioning system, turn off the power at the breaker box. If you can't figure out which breaker will cut the power to the air conditioner, turn the power off at the main switch. Have a battery-operated work light and flashlight handy to provide light while you work.
Clean Around the HVAC Unit
Sweep around the furnace and air conditioning system to remove loose dust, dirt, spiderwebs and other debris. Dispose of the debris in the trash. Look for any external damage, loose ducts and evidence of pests, like rodents.
Replace the Air Filter
Replace the inner air filter of the air conditioner. Generally, the air filter is located the blower cabinet. The filter may be positioned horizontally or vertically on the side, top or bottom. Remove the panel and the filter.
Depending on the type of filter, you may be able to clean it by vacuuming, or it may need replacement. Use the exact size and type of replacement filter recommended by Carrier. Put the cleaned or new filter back in place with the airflow arrows on the filter facing in the right direction.
Reinstall the cover. Turn the power back on at the breaker box. Test the system by turning on the air conditioning and fan.
Replace Other Filters
Take time to change or clean the other filters in the house. Replace the furnace air return filter in the hall ceiling or wall regularly — every two to three months. Clean the kitchen exhaust fan filter over the stove regularly to reduce grime and grease buildup or, if it is impossible to clean, replace it with a new filter of the same size and type.
Call a Professional
While doing your own cleaning can be relatively simple, sometimes, you need a professional to complete the job. If the fins are crushed, you can further damage the unit when trying to straighten them. In addition, if there's dark stains or oil drip marks, you might have a leak that needs repairing and refilling with refrigerant. Don't try to tighten the fittings because you may damage the lines or fittings.
Other issues that may be easily resolved by a professional HVAC technician include the air conditioning not cooling, which may indicate a refrigerant leak or other problem. Also call a pro to clean the inner coils, if your unit is inaccessible or if you can't access the breaker box to turn off the power before changing the filter or doing other maintenance.