If you haven't cleaned your AC unit, here are 6 tips and tricks you might need

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Air conditioner units can be an expensive investment. Whether you have a window unit or a large outdoor unit, they become an essential part of your home. It can be easy to simply turn on the AC and expect cool air.
However, due to the large amount of usage most air conditioners receive and their outside locations, all units require regular maintenance. With a bit of care, you can keep your AC working efficiently and cooling down your home for as many years as possible. These tips will help you transform your air conditioner maintenance into a quick and easy task.
1. Turn off the power (h/t DANDLINC)
Before working on any electronic appliance, it's best to unplug. This protects both you and the air conditioner from damage. Window units simply need to be unplugged. The large stand-alone units have main breakers and pull out fuses instead of a simple plug. This is the first and most important step of air conditioner maintenance.
2. Vacuum loose debris (h/t The Family Handyman)
Begin the cleaning process on a stand-alone, outdoor AC unit by cleaning a 2-foot circle around your unit. Then gently vacuum the outside of the AC unit with a shop vac and a brush attachment. This helps remove dirt, leaves, and glass clippings before you begin removing the outside shroud. It also keeps it from being blown into the unit during cleaning.
3. Use a spray nozzle (h/t DIY Network)
After removing the cover, the easiest way to clean the AC fins is from the inside out. By spraying from the inside, you push the debris back out the way it came out, instead of pushing it further inside the unit. A normal garden spray nozzle is all you need. Don't look for an extra boost of power from a pressure washer -- it will damage the fins.
4. Straighten the fins (h/t Today's Homeowner)
AC fins in window and outdoor units are easily bent. They are incredibly fine, flexible pieces of metal. All it takes is a slight bump and they are bent and no longer working at 100 percent efficiency. The good news is that their vulnerability also makes it easy to repair them. Simply use a stiff brush to gently comb the fins back in place. Badly bent fins can be gently straightened using a knife.
5. Clean the filter (h/t HVAC.com)
Most window air units feature washable filters. The filter is located just inside the inside grill. The easiest way to thoroughly clean the filter is to lay it in a sink and sprinkle with laundry detergent. Fill the sink with hot water and allow the AC filter to soak for 15 minutes. Then gently rub with a scrub brush and rinse with clean water. Hang to dry.
6. Remove stubborn grime (h/t Allergy & Air)
If you find water won't remove the dirt and dust from the insides of your AC, you may need to use a stronger cleaner. A commercial coil cleaner works wonderfully, but you can also use a homemade cleaner. A mixture of vinegar and water is a gentle, yet effective AC coil cleaning solution. Simply mix, spray and let it rest for a few minutes.
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