Summer is here and the last thing you want is for your air conditioner to break down when you need it most. One of the most common causes of AC unit failure is maintenance neglect, particularly when it comes to cleaning the outdoor coils. Over time, dirt, debris, and other pollutants accumulate on the exterior coils, reducing their efficiency and causing the system to work harder to cool your home. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at how to clean AC coils outside, why it’s important, and the tools and techniques you’ll need to get the job done right.

1. Introduction to the Importance of Cleaning AC Coils Outside

Cleaning AC coils outside may seem like a mundane task, but it plays a vital role in maintaining the efficiency of your air conditioning system. Over time, the coils on the outside of your AC unit collect dirt, debris, and other particles that reduce the system’s ability to cool your home effectively. This can lead to a decrease in airflow, an increase in energy consumption, and more serious problems like compressor failure.

Moreover, a dirty AC system can also lead to poor indoor air quality, which can negatively affect your health and comfort. Airborne contaminants like bacteria, mold, and dust may circulate throughout your home and cause or worsen allergies, asthma, and other respiratory problems.

To avoid these issues and ensure your AC unit’s maximum performance and longevity, it’s crucial to clean the coils outside regularly. This guide will provide you with easy-to-follow instructions on how to do it safely and effectively, along with some helpful tips on maintaining your AC system and common mistakes to avoid.

2. Understanding the Components of an AC System and the Role of Coils

Before we dive into the details of how to clean AC coils outside, it’s important to understand the components of an AC system and the role of coils in its functioning.

The Components of an AC System

An AC system comprises several components that work together to cool your home or office space. The main components include:

  • The compressor
  • The condenser
  • The evaporator
  • The expansion valve
  • The refrigerant

The Role of Coils in an AC System

Coils are an integral part of the AC system and play a crucial role in the cooling process. There are two types of coils in an AC system – the evaporator coils and the condenser coils.

Evaporator coils are located inside the air handler unit or the indoor unit and absorb the heat from the indoor air. The refrigerant inside the coils evaporates and cools the indoor air, which is then circulated back into the room.

Condenser coils, on the other hand, are located in the outdoor unit and function by releasing the absorbed heat from the evaporator coils into the outdoor air. The refrigerant inside the coils condenses as it releases the heat, and the process repeats.

In summary, the coils in an AC system facilitate the movement of refrigerant between the indoor and outdoor units, which is responsible for cooling your home or office space. Without clean coils, the AC system would become inefficient and struggle to perform its role effectively.

3. Step-by-Step Guide on How to Safely Clean AC Coils Outside

Cleaning your AC coils outside is crucial for maintaining the efficiency of your HVAC system. Dirt, debris, and other particles accumulate over time, reducing the airflow and forcing your AC system to work harder. Not only does this decrease the efficiency of your system, but it can also lead to higher energy bills and a shorter lifespan of your AC unit. Follow these step-by-step instructions to safely and effectively clean your AC coils.

Step 1: Turn off the power to your AC unit. You can do this by switching off the circuit breaker or unplugging it.

Step 2: Remove any debris or dirt from the exterior of the AC unit with a hose or brush. Be careful not to damage the fins of the AC coils when using a brush.

Step 3: Remove the fan from the top of the AC unit. Use a screwdriver to detach the screws and carefully lift the fan away from the unit. Be careful not to damage any wiring connected to the fan.

Step 4: Use a coil cleaner to spray the coils from the inside out. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the specific coil cleaner you are using.

Step 5: Let the coil cleaner sit for 10-15 minutes to allow it to penetrate the dirt and debris on the coils.

Step 6: Rinse the AC coils with a hose, starting from the inside and working your way out. Be careful not to use too much pressure as this can damage the coils.

Step 7: Reattach the fan and screws and turn the power back on.

Regular cleaning of your AC coils outside is essential to maintain the efficiency of your AC system and prolong its lifespan. By following these step-by-step instructions, you can safely and effectively clean your AC coils and keep your HVAC system running smoothly.

4. Best Practices for Maintaining Your AC System and Extending Its Lifespan

Regular maintenance is the key to extending the lifespan of your AC system and optimizing its performance. Here are some best practices that you should follow to keep your system in top shape.

Replace Air Filters Regularly

Air filters play a critical role in protecting your AC system from dust, dirt, and other airborne particles that could damage the coils and reduce the efficiency of the system. Over time, the filters become clogged and less effective at trapping particles, which makes it harder for the system to circulate air properly. To avoid this problem, replace your air filters every 3-6 months, or more frequently if you have pets, allergies, or live in a dusty area.

Keep the Coils Clean

As we discussed earlier, dirty coils can reduce the efficiency of your AC system and lead to higher energy bills, more frequent breakdowns, and shorter lifespan. To prevent this, clean your coils at least once a year, and more frequently if you live in a dusty or humid climate. Follow the steps outlined in the previous section to safely clean your AC coils outside.

Schedule Professional Maintenance

While there are many things that you can do to maintain your AC system, it’s always a good idea to have a professional take a look at your system at least once a year. A licensed technician can inspect your system, identify potential problems, and perform necessary repairs and tune-ups to keep the system running smoothly. This not only ensures the optimal performance and safety of your system but also extends its lifespan and saves you money over time.

Following these best practices can help you maintain your AC system and extend its lifespan. Keep in mind that regular maintenance not only helps your system run more efficiently and reliably but also prevents costly breakdowns and repairs.

5. Professional Cleaning Services: When to Hire Experts for AC Coil Cleaning

Cleaning the AC coils outside may seem like a straightforward task, but when it comes to the more complex AC systems, there may be instances when it’s best to leave the job to the experts. Here are some cases when you should consider hiring professional cleaning services for your AC coil:

1. You have an older AC system:

If your AC system is more than 10 years old, it may have outdated components that require specialized attention. Hiring professional cleaning services will ensure that all parts of your AC system are maintained properly, and potential issues are resolved before they turn into bigger problems.

2. You have more than one AC unit:

Cleaning one AC coil outside is a manageable task for most homeowners, but when you have more than one unit to clean, the job becomes more challenging. Professional cleaning services have the necessary equipment and knowledge to handle multiple AC units with ease.

3. You want to avoid potential damage:

Cleaning AC coils outside involves delicate parts that are sensitive to high water pressure and the use of harsh chemicals. Unless you’re experienced with AC systems, there’s a risk of damaging the coils or other components, which can lead to costly repairs. Professional cleaning services are equipped with the right tools and techniques to get the job done efficiently and safely.

In conclusion, while cleaning AC coils outside is a necessary task to maintain your AC system, there are instances when it’s best to leave the job to experts. It’s important to assess your AC system’s age, complexity, and the number of units before deciding whether to clean the coils yourself or hire a professional cleaning service.

6. Common Mistakes to Avoid When Cleaning AC Coils Outside

When cleaning your AC coils, it’s important to be cautious and take the proper steps to avoid costly mistakes that can damage your unit. Here are some :

1. Using Harsh Chemicals: Although it might be tempting to use harsh chemicals to quickly clean your AC coils, it’s not recommended. Toxic chemicals can damage the coils and other parts of your unit, leading to costly repairs or replacements down the road. Instead, use a mild detergent or cleaning solution and a gentle brush to scrub away dirt and debris.

2. Pressure Washing: While it might seem like the most effective method to clean your AC coils, pressure washing can actually do more harm than good. High-pressure water can bend or damage the fins on the coils, which can obstruct airflow and reduce efficiency. It’s best to use a low-pressure hose or sprayer to gently rinse away dirt and debris.

3. Neglecting Other Parts of Your AC Unit: AC coils are an important part of your unit, but they’re not the only component that requires maintenance. Neglecting other parts, like the air filters and blower fan, can also lead to reduced efficiency and costly repairs. To ensure your AC system is running at peak performance, be sure to perform regular maintenance on all parts of the unit.

By avoiding these common mistakes and taking the time to properly clean and maintain your AC coils outside, you’ll not only extend the lifespan of your unit but also improve its efficiency and performance.

People Also Ask

What causes AC coils to get dirty?

AC coils get dirty due to the accumulation of dust, dirt, and other debris that gets trapped in the fins of the coil over time. This buildup reduces the efficiency of the AC unit, causing it to work harder and use more energy.

How often should AC coils be cleaned?

AC coils should be cleaned at least once a year to maintain their efficiency. If you live in an area with high dust, pollen, or other airborne particles, you may need to clean your coils more frequently.

What tools do I need to clean AC coils?

To clean AC coils, you will need a garden hose, coil cleaner solution, a spray bottle, a fin brush, and safety goggles. You may also need a ladder to reach the coils if they are located on the roof or in a hard-to-reach area.

Can I clean AC coils myself?

Yes, you can clean AC coils yourself with the right tools and safety precautions. However, if you are not comfortable working with electrical components or climbing ladders, it is best to hire a professional HVAC technician to clean your coils.

What are the benefits of cleaning AC coils?

Cleaning AC coils can improve the efficiency of your AC unit, reduce energy costs, and extend the lifespan of your equipment. It can also improve indoor air quality by removing buildup of mold, mildew, and other contaminants inside the unit.


Cleaning AC coils is an important maintenance task to ensure your AC system runs efficiently and effectively. By using the right tools and techniques, you can clean the coils yourself or hire a professional to do it for you. Regular cleaning can save on energy costs, extend the lifespan of your equipment, and improve indoor air quality.