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Green Living: Cleaning Compressor Coils

The AC compressor, generally neglected until it poses a problem, should be cleaned yearly to extend its life and maintain peak performance. To begin with, never plant or allow shrubs or trees to grow near enough to block the air flow. Generally, air is pulled in the sides and is blown upwards out the top. The air flow cools the hot refrigerant returning from the house before it enters the compressor, and helps to cool the compressor itself—the better the air flow, the more efficiently the compressor will operate.

Cleaning the coil is a simple matter. Home centers and heating supply companies sell a cleaner just for this purpose, usually an aerosol foam. First turn off the power to the unit. Many times this can be done at an electrical disconnect located adjacent to the unit. If there is no disconnect, turn off the circuit breaker controlling the unit.

Then, remove the screws that secure the top to the compressor. Lift the top off carefully and set is aside. Remove any debris that has accumulated in the coil fins or bottom of the compressor housing. (Caution: the aluminum fins are delicate and easily damaged. Do not use stiff brushes to clean them.) Then, spray the foam cleaner over all the coils, both inside and outside. Allow to penetrate per the manufacturer’s recommendations, and use a garden hose to complete the job.

Re-assemble the top to the unit and you’re ready for another year of cool comfort.


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