AC Preventative Maintenance: Steps for Maintaining Your HVAC Unit

AC Preventative Maintenance: Steps for Maintaining Your HVAC Unit

Like a vehicle, proper maintenance is a must for your air conditioner. Regular upkeep on your HVAC system will save you time and money, in terms of overall lifespan of the unit and monthly energy bills. Plus, the necessary maintenance will keep your home cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

To ensure that your device works at its highest level of efficiency, maintenance is essential. This means examining the interior unit (i.e., evaporator and blower) as well as the exterior unit (i.e., condenser coils and compressor), regardless of whether or not you have a furnace and air conditioner, or a heat pump.

These simple steps will help you maintain your Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning system (HVAC), even if you’re a novice when it comes to HVAC maintenance.

For regular maintenance you will need the following tools and materials:

  • Wrench
  • Screwdriver
  • Level
  • Rake
  • Small brush
  • Soap
  • Bleach
  • No-rinse coil cleaner
  • Drip pan tablet
  • Blower filter

Once you have the necessary equipment, follow the steps below to clean your system annually.

Step 1 – Cut Off the Power

Not to overstate the obvious, but make sure you find the breaker box and cut off the power. Even if you feel like you’re an expert, it’s always best to be safe rather than sorry. Working with electricity and the various moving parts of an air conditioner could mean bad news unless proper precautions are put in place.

Step 2 – Remove Large Debris

On the outside condenser or compressor, you’ll notice a fan cage. With a screwdriver or wrench, remove the AC’s fasteners and then lift the cage or grill off the top of the unit. Make sure you wear gloves or bring out the wet-dry vacuum to clean any leaves and other debris from the system. When debris gets caught in an AC unit airflow is reduced.

Step 3 – Clear and Straighten the Fins

After you’ve moved the large debris, begin clearing out the fins. The fins are the metal sides of the unit, which also resemble a cage. Use a powerful garden hose to blast debris and dirt. You can also use a cleaning spray to finish the job.

Once you’ve cleaned the fins, take a butter knife or screwdriver to straighten any bent fins that might be limiting airflow. This is one of the more delicate operations, so take your time, as there’s tubing within the fins that could get damaged.

Step 4 – Clean and Level the Unit

After you’ve properly cleaned the cage, fins and re-installed the cage, it’s time to clean the area around the unit. There’s no use cleaning the system if you’re just going to leave piles of leaves or debris around it, so bust out that old rake and clear the area around the unit.

Once the area around the air conditioner is clear, grab your level to make sure the air conditioner is sitting level on the pad. Over time, a pad can sink as the soil beneath it begins to settle. This is less important with a heat pump system since they are meant to be sloped away from the home to defrost in the winter.

Step 5 – Clean the Coils

If you’ve ever lived in an apartment building, you’ve most likely seen a member of the maintenance staff clean your AC’s coils. Inside the house on the blower-furnace, look for the evaporator coil door. Sometimes there’s tape or screws holding it in place. Use a soft brush to clean debris from the coils, and then spray on a no-rinse coil cleaner.

Clean out the drip pan with soap and water, and add some bleach if you’re having trouble getting it clean. Pour a mixture that’s one-part bleach and one-part water down the drain to make sure the drain stays clear. You should also place a pan tablet in the pan to slow or stop any future algae growth.

Step 6 – Change The Blower Filter

Finally, change the filter in your HVAC system at least twice each year. Do this once before heating season and once more before cooling season. For dusty areas, additional filters may be required. When choosing a filter, always look for one with the same airflow rating as the one you currently have.


Start by grabbing the required tools around your home, like a screwdriver, rake, level and brush to clean the outside air conditioner. Before you begin, make sure to cut the power at the breaker. Start by clearing the cage, move to the fins. Once the debris has been cleared, clean around the unit and make sure it’s level.

Inside your home, clean the coils and the drip pan. You may need to purchase a no-rinse coil cleaner, a drip pan tablet, and a new blower filter. Following these simple HVAC tune-up steps will ensure a longer lifespan for your unit, which will save you time and money.


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