The following advice is based on split systems but it broadly applies to ducted and wall-window models too.
Check the instructions
Your air conditioner should have come with an instruction manual that details how to access and clean the air filters and any other user-maintainable parts. If you don't have the book any more, you may be able to download a copy from the manufacturer's website. Make sure the unit is turned off at the wall before you do any maintenance on it.
How to clean your air conditioner filters
The indoor air conditioner unit has air filters that need regular cleaning. The more clogged the filter, the harder the air conditioner has to work to push air through it. That can mean higher running costs.
It's usually a simple matter of popping open the plastic cover and removing the filter (there may be more than one).
Manufacturers usually recommend that you clean the filters every few weeks, but it really depends how often you use the air conditioner. Simply put, the more you use it, the more often you should clean the filters. At the least, aim to clean them a couple of times a year. For example, if you mainly use the unit in the wet, clean the filters now so they are ready for the peak season, and again when the wet season is over.
There are usually one or two main filters in the indoor unit. There might also be an air purification filter (such as a HEPA or carbon filter) that can be removed and cleaned; this type of filter will eventually need to be replaced, perhaps every year or two.
- Take the filters outside for a good brush or shake. Filters can usually also be vacumed for a thorough clean; use the vacuum cleaner's dusting brush head if you have one.
- If the filters are very dirty and grimy, you can wash them in warm water with some mild detergent and rinse them clean. Make sure they are completely dry before putting them back in the unit.
How to clean your air conditioner's louvres
You may also be able to remove the indoor unit's louvres (the oscillating blades that direct the air flow). Give them, and the space behind them inside the unit, a thorough clean with a dry cloth or with the vacuum cleaner.
How to clean the outdoor unit of your air conditioner
Keep the outdoor compressor unit clear of surrounding grass and plants, and brush away dust, leaves and cobwebs regularly.
Running a vacuum cleaner over the air intake can help clear dust from inside.
Should you clean the condenser coils?
We advise that you leave this job to a professional though, as you could void your warranty if you do it yourself, or worse, you could accidentally damage components and release refrigerant gas. There are also potential electrical safety hazards.
Air conditioner cleaning cheat-sheet
Clean and/or replace filter screens in the indoor unit of a split-system, or as per the instructions for your ducted system. (Do this more often if your air conditioner is always on, you live in a very dusty environment or you experience a noticeable drop in performance.)
Wipe down the indoor unit or any ducts or vents with a soft damp cloth.