Cleaning air conditioner vents and filters is a quick and easy — if a bit dirty! — task that will make a big difference in how well your home is cooled, and in reducing your energy bill. It's a job you should do every four to eight weeks, depending on how frequently the air conditioner is run, and on environmental factors like heavy pollution.
Cleaning A/C Filters
The first thing to do is to turn the A/C unit off and unplug it; this job is one to do in the morning, before the heat of the day really kicks in and the last thing you'll want is to be without air conditioning for a stretch of time.
Then, remove the filter by opening the front of the unit and sliding it out. Some A/Cs have a front panel that pops open with just your fingers, while others require a screwdriver. The user's manual will tell you how to access the filter. (If you no longer have the manual, Google the make and model number and find it online.) Place the filter in the kitchen sink and cover it with warm water and a small squirt of dish soap. While it's submerged, use a sponge or microfiber cloth to gently scrub the screen. If the kitchen sink has a hose attachment, you can also use that to spray water through the back of the screen, which will push dirt and grime off the filter using the force of the water pressure.
Once the screen is clean, dry it completely before putting it back in the A/C unit so water doesn't get into the machinery. While the screen is drying, dust the rest of the unit, including and especially the vent openings, using a microfiber cloth, vent duster, feather duster, or vacuum fitted with a small brush attachment.
Oscillating fans, box fans, or dual window fans should also be regularly cleaned, as dust and dirt will collect on the fan blades.
Cleaning a fan is similar to cleaning an A/C unit, in that it's a straightforward but dirty job. Just like with an air conditioner, start by unplugging the fan, then use a screwdriver to remove the front and back covers, which will give you access to the fan blades.
Wash the covers, either in the sink with warm soapy water, or by wiping them with a rag or paper towels sprayed with all-purpose cleaner. Dry them thoroughly and set them aside. Then, wipe the fan blades using a microfiber cloth or paper towels and all-purpose cleaner. If they are very dirty, start with a dry microfiber cloth before introducing a liquid cleaner.
After you've cleaned the blades and fan covers, wipe the outer parts of the unit, including the cord, with a dry microfiber cloth. Then, reassemble the unit, plug it back in, and turn the fan on to help circulate cool air, allowing you to run the A/C at a lower setting.