by a Thinker, Sailor, Blogger, Irreverent Guy from Madras

Confession of an air conditioner cleaner

On 22nd of May, when Chennai weather hit 38 C (100 F) in the day and the night temperature refused to drop below 28 C (82 F), my air conditioner decided to act up.

It is a Window model, as there were no Split Air Conditioner models in the market when I bought it eleven years back and hasn’t given me much of a problem.

Trouble should have been foreseen as no maintenance has been done on the unit for last 3 years.  The only maintenance done over the last 3 years was a cursory brush off and a perfunctory vacuuming of the cooling coils. 

The guy who used to give me a hand in lifting and moving the unit from the bed room to the balcony, had moved on; for that reason, I had neglected the maintenance over the last few years.  A typical, office going, bike riding middle class madrasi male either cannot lift such weights or considers it below his dignity to attempt it.  Heavens help whoever requests such ‘menial’ help from them.

For those of you who do not know what cooler and evaporator coils in an air conditioner are, here is a model of air conditioning unit from Wikipedia.


So on Monday, I managed to collar a guy to help me lift out the unit and move it 30 feet to the balcony for a thorough wash.  To my horror I found the cooling coil fins totally clogged - no wonder the unit gave up.  Here is a front view of the condenser fins, yipes!

air conditioner_before

Last year, when the air conditioner performance deteriorated at the fag end of the summer, I removed the air filter placed before the cooling coil fins - the air filter which is in place to prevent such clogging.  And here is the result.

The price for that over smart, short sighted move was to spend more than 2 hours bent over the air conditioner, cleaning the fins with soap, water and toothbrush.  Yikes!

The fins did clear up but the tight space also managed to place a couple of fine ‘fin cuts’ on my hands.  Looks like some one used a fine toothed metal comb on them.

Here are the cooling coil fins after tooth brushing and soap, water and a bit of hosing down - the cooling coils (tubes) are shining through.

air conditioner_after

The blower fins too had a lot of dirt deposits and removing them gave me a few more ‘fin cuts’, but after about 3 hours, the unit was ready to be boxed back.  Just have look at the muck removed from the air conditioner.  This one was what was left underneath while cleaning the unit up.

air conditioner_muck1

And this is the total muck deposit; the drain clogged up 15 minutes into the cleaning. Yuck.

air conditioner_muck2

A neighbours son gave me a hand to move the unit 30 feet back and set into its mounting and Viola! the unit was as good as new.

After an year or so, the unit is humming and the air delivery is great.  At 55% capacity (being 11 years old, the unit has calibrations running from 1 to 10 and is generally run with the knob pointing between 5 - 6 but doesn’t have digital displays), while the Chennai ambient topped 39 C (102 F) yesterday, the unit managed to give me chilled hands while in the bed room and fogged glasses I came out.

A nice lesson learnt:  Never, ever, remove the air filter from the air conditioning unit.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Thanks for sharing good information. Cleaning air conditioner could potentially avoid some problems down the road and also some additional expenses. I just bought a portable air conditioner and I find it very convenient but cleaning it has been a huge struggle for me..

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