In addition to scheduling annual maintenance service, there are several things that you should regularly do to take care of the air conditioner in your Richmond, Virginia home. These include performing routine air filter changes and dusting off the air registers, vents, and grilles. You should also check the outside condenser for damage and debris. However, when it comes to AC condenser maintenance, it’s important to avoid getting carried away. Although this unit sits on the property exterior and is prone to collecting dirt and grime, you should never power wash it. The following covers several important reasons why.

Soft-wash Settings Aren’t Reliable

Using pressure washing equipment to clean any aspect of your home or any one of your home appliances is a dangerous game. This is especially true if you intend to use power washing equipment that you’ve purchased yourself at a local home and hardware store. Lacking professional training and using tools with dubious settings can result in major damage. Power washing units have the ability to strip paint off of siding, remove roofing shingles, tear off gutters and downspouts, and cause other aesthetic and structural harm. When you turn this equipment on your air conditioner’s condenser, you can cause irreparable problems that cost far more to fix than you’d pay for professional AC maintenance service.

Some power washing tools are marketed as having special “soft-wash” settings. These imply that the pressure or force of the water being ejected is moderate enough to clean sensitive or delicate items without causing them harm. However, “soft-wash” settings are relative. How much pressure is too much? If you ask a licensed HVAC contractor, even the lowest pressure settings on power washing tools are too high for this job. HVAC companies don’t use power washing tools to clean AC condensers, and you shouldn’t either.

Outsourcing Your Power Washing Project

It might seem acceptable to let a professional power washing service clean your condenser instead. Although some power washing companies advertise themselves as being able to tackle this task without causing equipment damage, most cannot. Power washing companies are primarily equipped with tools for removing tough stains from siding, roofing, and concrete. Their power washers have “soft-wash” settings too, and they’re often flexible and adaptable enough to handle a more diverse range of jobs than power washers that have been purchased by consumers in-store can. However, you cannot be certain that a power washing company understands the needs, nuances, and intricacies of your air conditioner. Each AC model is different, and most air conditioners simply aren’t built for this type of cleaning.

Your Manufacturer Warranty Could Be Voided

Take a minute to read through the owner’s manual for your air conditioner. These manuals typically detail both the recommended methods of cleaning for individual AC units and the cleaning methods that consumers should outright avoid. If this is the case with your air conditioner’s manual, you’ll likely see power washing at the very top of the list for cleaning methods that shouldn’t be used.

You should also take the time to read through your manufacturer-issued warranty. Far more than simply being a guarantee that the manufacturer will cover the costs of repairing or replacing defective AC parts, this is a mutual agreement between consumers and the companies that have produced their air conditioners. As the consumer, you must adhere to all applicable terms of this agreement to enjoy the protections it provides. This includes performing routine maintenance according to the manufacturer’s recommended schedule, but it also includes avoiding cleaning methods that are known to cause damage. Power washing the AC condenser is one.

Power Washing Isn’t an All-Inclusive Solution

Even if a quick pass with a power washer on a “soft-wash” setting doesn’t cause damage to your air conditioner’s outside component, it can still cause more problems than it solves. A single pass could wind up flushing loose debris deep into the interior of the unit where it will prove difficult to reach. Moreover, the parts of your condenser that are not correctly cleaned by this treatment will still need to be professionally maintained.

How Power Washing Damages Air Conditioners

Even at the softest possible setting, the water pressure from a power washing unit is simply too high for your AC condenser. This is largely due to the coils and coil fins that the condenser unit houses. With the thousands of pounds per square inch (PSI) of pressure that power washers push out, fin coils can be bent, broken, or damaged in other ways. Worse still, damaged coils and fins are rarely easy to repair. More often than not, these parts must be replaced instead.

Coil fins typically have a lightweight aluminum or copper construction. These metals are soft and they’re all but guaranteed to bend under the force of power washing. Power washing the interior of the condenser can also gauge holes in the tubing it contains to create costly refrigerant leaks. While standard garden hoses that have not been modified to increase their pressure are relatively safe for use, they won’t get rid of the trapped debris that must be eliminated. Moreover, even simply placing your thumb over a running hose to increase the force of its output may be enough to cause harm to the coil fins.

What You Can Do to Clean Your AC Condenser

Just because power washing your AC condenser is out of the question, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t steps that you can personally take to clean this component up. In fact, there are several important tasks that you must complete in this area if you want your air conditioner to continue working efficiently. To start, establish a schedule for regularly checking the condenser’s perimeter. If there are weeds growing in this space or overgrown shrubbery, you should trim or clear these things out as needed.

Next, make sure that no one in the home is leaning items against the condenser. If your AC condenser is located in a side yard that kids frequently pass through with their toys or sporting equipment, they should know that they can’t rest bikes, scooters, or other like items against this component. You should also make sure that the area is free of broken branches and twigs, and remove all small-sized items that can get kicked or blown inside of the condenser. If there are nearby trees with branches that hang over the condenser, make sure that these trees are regularly pruned. Having a tree care service eliminate weak or damaged branches will protect your condenser from impact events.

When it comes to cleaning the interior of the AC condenser, this is a job best left to professionals. Not only can HVAC technicians clean this component safely, but they can also make sure that no areas are overlooked. Having HVAC professionals take care of this important maintenance task is also a great way to keep your air conditioner’s manufacturer warranty intact.

At Davis & Green Services, we’ve been a trusted provider of residential heating and cooling services since 1984. Homeowners throughout Richmond, VA and the surrounding areas can also turn to us for plumbing and electrical services. If your AC condenser unit is in need of maintenance, we can help. Before you make the grave mistake of cleaning this important component with a power washer, give us a call.

Davis & Green

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