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A Handyman Helping Hand

Re: air conditioner

Posted By: AHandyman
Wednesday, 3 May 2000, at 10:17 a.m.

In Response To: air conditioner (Joan Addison)

Joan,

Cleaning a window air unit every year would be GREAT but every 2 or 3 years is helpful. The PROBLEM is that it isn't as easy as just setting it in the yard and hosing it off.:-(

There are two sets of 'coils' (usually copper tubing with aluminium fins of some sort). This is the priciple behind the cooling. Normally one fan motor drives two fan blades. One for the inside and one for the outside. The inside fan blows over the inside coil where heat is picked up from the house. Through the magic of the refrigeration cycle, the 'heat' is moved to the outside coil where a fan cools that coil expelling the heat outside the house. These coils must be clean for the process to work. Most window units that are thrown away... are simply dirty and if cleaned would work fine.

The inside coil has a filter, that if cleaned on a regular bases.. that coils stays relatively clean. The outside coil is a different story. It picks up everything in the air outside... the worst of that usually being cottonwood seeds from the trees. Now the hitch.. there isn't a filter for this coil AND the 'dirty' surface is INSIDE the unit. (the air blows from the inside of the unit, across the coil, to the outside (which is usually clean due to rain.)

The only way to properly clean it, is to take it apart. IF you are mechanically inclined, it's simply a matter of taking off the cover... and as much of the interior as needed to get to the INSIDE surface of the OUTSIDE coil. Use plastic and duct tape to seal the motor and wiring compartments to prevent water or chemical entry. (of course it is unpugged if it's in the yard) Use a commercial cleaner.. Fantastic.. Mr. Clean and clean the fan blades, interior fan 'cage' and both coils. Use LOTS of water and make sure that the water passes through all parts of the coil freely and make sure the chemical used is very well rinsed. If you have an air compressor.. blow air through and around everything to dry it out. Or you can simply turn it on it's side and dump the water AND get it back to the normal orientation since the oil in the compressor needs to be in the sump when it is turned back on. Make sure any drain hoses and holes in the bottom are cleared of any JUNK that is washed off the coils. Take off the plastic and duct tape. Reassemble, let dry overnight, and check operation OUT of the window before going to the trouble of putting it back in.

I can usually do all this in about an hour. If it's your first time in.. plan of more time. You'll end up taking out about 30-40 screws and 4 or five panels to get to everything. You have to be careful not to bend any of the tubing and you HAVE to get all brackets and panels back in the proper places. If you have leftover parts... something isn't right! Bottom line is that if it's dirty.. it will help the operation if it's clean.

The reason that many units just get junked and new ones purchased is that most handy/wo/men simply won't go to this much trouble. But if you can usually take things apart and get them back together, you not only benifit from a 'renewed' unit... but the power bill will go WAY down IF the unit was really dirty.

Thanks for the question. For every window unit that gets cleaned and put back in service.. that's one less unit in the junk yard..

Good luck!

Don

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