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How to Clean Your HVAC Inside and Out: The Complete Guide

If you want to figure out how to clean your HVAC unit, you’re in luck. This guide will walk you through the most important steps and why they matter.

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Figuring out how to clean your HVAC unit is an integral part of ensuring that your system works as it should and does not have serious issues that need expensive repairs. Whether you hire a professional maintenance service provider to do the cleaning for you or do some of it on your own, understanding how air conditioners and HVAC units are cleaned will help you choose an option that will work best.

Even though air conditioning units might not be the first thing you think of when you start your spring cleaning, maintaining the air filters and cleaning the dirty air ducts is not just important for the unit’s longevity but for the health of your family as well.

But why are regular cleanings of your air vents and AC coils so important? And how to clean HVAC coils, filters, and ducts effectively?

Let’s explore these and other important questions below.

Why Should You Clean Your HVAC Unit?

There are many reasons why thoroughly cleaning your HVAC units is an absolute must. Some of them relate to how your HVAC performs, but it’s also crucial for air quality and preventing your HVAC unit from breaking down.

Let’s look at some of the main advantages of performing the necessary cleaning on your outdoor and indoor units.

Improve Energy Efficiency

HVAC thermostat

With global energy prices on the rise, it’s important to be vigilant in how you use electricity and always be on the lookout for ways to reduce your monthly bill. And that’s why cleaning your dirty coils, the condenser unit, and duct contamination can help your HVAC unit perform at maximum efficiency, significantly reducing the amount of energy it consumes.

That’s because when an HVAC unit gets dirty and polluted, it has to work much harder to draw and push air, which decreases efficiency and makes it consume more energy than before. Meanwhile, if you remove dust, grime, and other debris from AC condenser coils and ducts, you allow it to work at peak efficiency and significantly reduce the amount you need to pay each month.

Improve Air Quality

Another important benefit of taking the extra time to clean your indoor and outdoor condenser coils is improving the indoor air quality in your home. The main purpose of an HVAC system is to ensure clean circulation of air throughout your home, but as it gets dirtier, it can no longer effectively filter pollutants such as dust, pet hair, or pollen out of the air.

And when your HVAC unit fails to properly filter the air, pollution levels in homes increase, which can cause discomfort and even lead to health issues down the line if left unaddressed.

Meanwhile, when you properly address duct contamination and opt for professional duct cleaning services, you can ensure that pollutants are contained and removed from your home, maintaining good indoor air quality at all times.

Increase Longevity

HVAC units are expensive to repair and even more expensive to replace. And that means as an owner, you must do your best to ensure you have a clean air conditioner that’s functioning at optimal efficiency.

Unfortunately, many homeowners only use air conditioning services when something breaks down, which means that as long as the HVAC unit is functioning, they don’t care that the dirt and debris collecting inside might be having a negative impact on how long the unit is going to last.

To avoid that, it’s crucial to include regular cleaning into your budget for HVAC operating costs and consult with professionals who can guide you through the most important cleaning works that can help your HVAC unit last longer and perform well for many years.

Avoid Costly Future Repairs

No matter how well you take care of your HVAC unit, it’s unavoidable that some parts will need repairs sooner or later. However, what you can control is what types of repairs are going to be more likely and how severe they are going to be.

When you regularly clean the evaporator coils, dirty air ducts, and other essential parts with a vacuum cleaner and a soft brush, you can reduce the severity of the issues that you are likely to face and can improve the odds of your HVAC unit only needing minor repairs instead of a complete overhaul.

In fact, if you’d ask your HVAC repair person what they think can make the biggest difference, regular maintenance and cleaning would likely be at the top of the list for preventing issues before they even have a chance to develop and turn into something more serious.

What’s more, when you regularly clean your air conditioner and other parts of the HVAC system using professional services, they can spot when something goes wrong early and help you avoid costly repairs by addressing the issue immediately.

Prevent Mold

Mold in the air ducts is one of the worst things that could happen in your home. Without you even being aware of it, you could be exposing yourself and your family to toxins that could have a detrimental effect on your health and put everyone in the home at significant risk.

Unfortunately, if you don’t develop a habit of regularly cleaning your HVAC unit, catching big issues such as mold development can be very difficult. Your system might seem to be working just fine while simultaneously contaminating the living space with mold that will spread around the house and become very difficult to get rid of later.

Meanwhile, when you take proper care of your HVAC unit, you can check for mold every time you clean the inside of the vents, which will ensure that you not only have consistent airflow throughout the home but also that the circulating air is properly filtered and free from dangerous contaminants such as mold.

No Unpleasant Odors

Few things are as annoying as having your home smell like cigarette smoke, mildew, or cooking oil. But that’s exactly what can happen if you don’t take the time to clean your HVAC unit on a regular basis.

When the HVAC unit remains uncleaned for a long time, the filters, ducts, and other parts get grime and debris stuck to it, which circulates the smells they have throughout your home. And if there are dead insects or rodents in your ducts, the smell can turn from bad to unbearable in no time.

By cleaning the essential components of your HVAC unit, you won’t have to worry about it accumulating smells and can rest assured that your home will remain full of clean and fresh air.

How to Clean Your HVAC Unit Inside and Out

Now that we’ve established why it’s so important to keep your HVAC unit clean, it’s time to go through the different aspects of the process so that you understand what parts should be cleaned, why they’re important, and how to approach them.

How to Clean Your HVAC Unit Coils

When figuring out how to clean HVAC evaporator coils, it’s important to follow a set of steps that will protect you and the entire HVAC unit, allowing you to thoroughly clean it safely. The good news is that the process is relatively simple and inexpensive, allowing even people with little to no similar experience to bring their HVAC unit back to life.

Cleaning the cooling coils will not only prolong your HVAC unit’s life but will also improve its efficiency, minimize wear, and allow you to reduce the number of times you need to bring in a professional condenser coil cleaner to your home.

To get started, find your condenser coil, which will typically be located outside, near the electric service panel. You will then need to disable the electric breaker, ensuring that the system is disconnected and ready to be worked on safely.

You can then remove the covers by unscrewing the screws that hold them in place. Then, look inside the panel to see if there is any visible dirt. If you haven’t done this in a while, you will probably find quite a bit of debris that might be reducing the HVAC unit’s efficiency.

First, put on gloves for safety and remove the largest pieces of debris that you find at the bottom. Because the coils are located in the outdoor unit, you may find various debris such as dirt, mulch, pebbles, leaves, and almost various other debris. Once you pick out the bigger prices, you can use a vacuum to collect any smaller debris from the air conditioner coils that you might have not been able to collect before.

Finally, clean the protective grille on the outside of the air conditioner coils and use a garden hose to spray the inside and outside with water to wash away any remaining debris. Then, you can reassemble the unit and it should work much better than before.

How to Clean Your HVAC Filter

The HVAC filters are another integral part of your unit that needs regular maintenance to function properly. It not only keeps the air in your home clean and free of pollutants but can also prolong the life of your unit while also reducing your energy bill. If the HVAC filter becomes worn down or dirty, it will not be able to perform its functions effectively, which means that unpleasant smells and contaminants will start circulating through the ventilation system.

What’s more, when the filter isn’t able to do its job effectively, that can hinder the performance of the entire HVAC unit, reducing its efficiency, longevity, and ability to keep the air fresh and clean for you and your family.

But what’s the best approach for taking care of your HVAC filter?

Well, in terms of the HVAC filter cleaning, you can either clean or replace it. And that will depend on whether your filter is disposable, which needs to be thrown away after they get clogged, or permanent, which can be washed and renewed multiple times.

If you have a permanent filter, the process of cleaning it is simple. Just turn off the HVAC unit, open the service panel, and remove the filter. Then, thoroughly clean it with running cold or hot water, and ensure that it’s completely dry before inserting it back in.

Keep in mind that even if you have filters that are washable, they won’t last indefinitely. An HVAC filter plays a vital role in your system’s performance and collects a lot of debris and pollutants in each cycle, so you will need to replace it eventually, even if you thoroughly clean it every time. When determining whether it’s time to change your HVAC filter, it’s best to consult with a professional who can provide advice and evaluate its condition.

How to Clean Your HVAC Ducts

The HVAC ducts have multiple purposes in your home’s ventilation system. They bring fresh air from the outside and filter it while also removing air from inside the home, ensuring continued circulation and maintaining the desired temperature in your home.

And as you can imagine, keeping the HVAC ducts clean will also play a vital role in how effectively the unit is able to perform its job. As the ducts are in use, they will inevitably collect a lot of debris, gunk, and dust, which will then either get stuck to the walls or be carried around the home, with some of it even making it to your home’s living spaces. That can not only produce unpleasant odors but can also play a role in the air’s quality, so regularly evaluating the condition of your HVAC ducts is an absolute must and not something you should postpone.

But how should you approach cleaning HVAC ducts?

Well, even though cleaning ducts and crawl spaces is better left to the professionals, you can do at least some of the cleaning yourself to reduce the frequency of needing a professional cleaning service. The process can seem complicated, but you can perform some basic cleaning on your own to improve the situation considerably or at least evaluate how dirty they are inside.

To access the ducts, you will need to remove the vent covers and clean them. At the same time, it’s a good idea to cover the openings with a bag or paper towel so that the dust doesn’t spread around your home as you’re cleaning other parts of the HVAC unit. You can then start using a dry vacuum hose to collect the dust and debris you find inside. If anything is stuck, you can use a brush to get it loose from the duct surfaces and ensure the dirty ducts can be vacuumed effectively.

Finally, when you’re done cleaning the inside of your HVAC ducts, you will also want to replace the vent covers with new and clean ones, as that will dramatically improve air quality and filtering while also ensuring that the air can circulate freely and not put unnecessary strain on your HVAC system.

Why Hiring Professional Cleaners for Your HVAC Unit Makes Sense

Professional Cleaners for Your HVAC Unit

Learning how to clean your HVAC unit is a great way to keep it functioning at peak performance. And even though it may seem overwhelming, you can perform some of the cleaning jobs yourself, improving the condition of your evaporator coils and condenser unit, and helping maintain the HVAC’s performance.

But at the same time, it’s important to remember that HVAC units are complex machines that can only be fully cleaned and maintained by a professional who understands the various intricacies of how it works and can spot not only what’s dirty but what might need potential repairs.

When you work with a professional cleaning company, you also don’t have to worry about learning the various aspects of cleaning it or getting the cleaning equipment or materials. Instead, you can get someone to come in at a pre-scheduled time and take care of everything for you. And with professional cleaners from reputable companies, you can be sure that they will bring industry-level equipment and the right tools, which will allow them to go through the cleaning process quickly.

Bottom Line

Figuring out how to clean HVAC can seem like a complicated process, but it can actually be managed if you follow a logical process and ensure you look after the different parts of your system.

However, at the same time, you should still strongly consider hiring a professional HVAC cleaning company to come over and perform a more thorough cleaning job on your air conditioner unit, which will prolong its life and prevent more serious issues from developing.