Air conditioning systems circulate a lot of air, and can quickly become clogged up with dust and dirt. With regular cleaning, you will enhance the longevity of your air conditioner’s parts, and help it to run more efficiently.

In this article, we will provide a step-by-step guide on cleaning your air conditioner, for both split and ducted systems.

The benefits of cleaning your air conditioner

Air conditioners contain filters which trap dust from the air circulating through, to prevent the unit from becoming clogged. If the filter becomes caked with dust, the machine will need to work harder to move air through it, which lowers its energy efficiency and increases your electricity bill (by as much as 15% for a split system2). With the fan coil working harder, it’s also more likely to wear down and eventually break.

If enough time passes without cleaning the filter, it may even start to collect mould, which can lead to health problems such as allergies, asthma, weakened immune systems, and even lung diseases1.

How to clean a split system air conditioner

Cleaning a split system air conditioner is simple, and requires minimal professional help. The only thing that you’ll need to have professionally cleaned is the cooling fan / heat exchanger.

What you will need

  • A vacuum cleaner
  • A soft cloth
  • Warm water
  • Your air conditioner’s instruction manual (or Google)
  • Optional: coil cleaner and water spray

1. Cleaning the filter

The most important part of the system to clean is the filter, as it collects the most dirt and dust. Daikin recommends that you clean or replace your split system air conditioner filter every month, or more frequently if you live in a particularly dusty or polluted environment3.

Before you start, make sure the air conditioner hasn’t been used for at least five hours, so that it’s had a chance to cool down. Split system air conditioners can have either washable or disposable filters, which you can find out by reading the instruction manual (washable filters tend to be made of a mesh-like material, which looks like it can be vacuumed). If it’s a washable filter, follow these steps to clean3:

  1. Remove the unit’s cover to reveal the filter(s) directly behind.
  2. Remove the filters (refer to your instruction manual if needed), and vacuum any light dust from them. If thick dust is present, wash with warm water and a cloth.
  3. Allow the filter to dry (not in direct sunlight).
  4. Slide the filters back into their original position.

If your air conditioner has replaceable filters only, the instruction manual should tell you which filters to purchase, and how to install them.

2. Cleaning the air conditioner’s louvres 

For some split system air conditioners, you may be able to remove the blades that control the airflow (louvres). If so, these can be cleaned using your vacuum, or with a cloth.

3. Cleaning the outdoor unit

To clean the outdoor unit, you will just need to make sure that the intake is clear of any dust, leaves, sticks, or other debris. You can use a brush to clear away the debris, and a vacuum cleaner to remove dust.

If possible, try to keep the unit clear of grass and plants going forward.

How to clean a ducted air conditioner

It’s possible to clean the vents, filter, and outdoor unit of your ducted air conditioner, but you will need professional assistance to clean the indoor unit and ducts, because they are more complex and difficult to reach.

What you will need

  • A vacuum cleaner
  • Optional: a soft cloth and warm water

1. Cleaning the vents

Use a vacuum cleaner to remove dust from the vent’s grilles. If stubborn dust or dirt remains, you can use a damp cloth to scrub it off.

2. Cleaning the filter

To keep your air conditioner in top working condition, it is recommended to clean your ducted air conditioner’s filter every 3-4 months. Here’s how you do so:

  1. Locate the return air vent for your ducted system. If you are unsure which vent this is, turn the system on and determine which vent is drawing in air, rather than blowing it out.
  2. Undo the vent’s frame (it’s usually a thumb screw or a sliding clip), and let it hang vertically.
  3. Remove the filter from inside the vent frame.
  4. Use your vacuum cleaner to remove any dust and dirt from the filter.
  5. If necessary, wash the filter using a cloth and warm water, and allow it to dry.
  6. Slide the filter back into the vent frame, before closing and re-securing.

3. Cleaning the outdoor unit

Ducted and split air conditioning systems use similar outdoor units. To clean your outdoor unit, please refer to step 4 in the split system section above.

Dust and dirt can clog up your air conditioning system quickly. With regular cleaning, your ducted or split system air conditioner will be more efficient, last for longer, and circulate cleaner, healthier air throughout your home.

References

  1. Mould and your health, betterhealth.gov.au
  2. How often should I clean the filters in my air conditioner?, Daikin
  3. Don’t forget the filters: the key to an energy efficient home, Daikin