A through-the-wall air conditioner is effectively a modified window unit designed to fit in a specialized sleeve. These units perform similarly to window units but don't occupy or block the windows in your home. Since you can install them anywhere, through-the-wall units may also have more convenient placement than typical window units.
Although wall systems may seem much simpler than split-unit central air conditioners, all air conditioning systems function similarly. Your through-the-wall unit has the same components as a central air system, but they're all shoved into a single housing. As a result, your through-the-wall units will require routine maintenance to function efficiently and reliably.
Which Parts of Your Air Conditioner Require Maintenance?
A typical air conditioning has a handful of components that require regular attention. All air conditioning and refrigeration systems work by extracting heat from one place (your home's interior) and moving it to another (the outside environment). Air conditioners perform this trick using refrigerant chemicals that can easily switch states and release heat.
Your air conditioner uses a coil at each end to transfer heat between the air and the refrigerant, and these coils rely on having as much surface area in contact with the air as possible. Over time, the coils will accumulate dust and debris, reducing their efficiency. Coil fins can also become bent and damaged, particularly on through-the-wall units that may be close to ground level.
Drainage is another major concern. Since air conditioners remove humidity, they typically generate plenty of condensation. Most through-the-wall and window units have an internal system that uses this condensation to cool the coils, but some water will still escape. Drainage channels can become clogged with dirt, potentially leading to water leaks.
How Should You Maintain Your Through-the-Wall System?
Maintaining most through-the-wall air conditioners is relatively straightforward. The coils are the area most likely to accumulate dirt and debris. While you won't have easy access to the evaporator coil, the condenser coil will be visible on the back (exterior) side. You can clean the coils using water from a garden hose and a gentle coil cleaner spray. You should consider doing this about once per year.
Checking the drainage channels can be more challenging. You will likely need to remove your unit from the wall to access the drainage channel in the sleeve and check for obstructions. You don't need to perform this task as often, but it's an important step to prevent blockages that can damage your air conditioner or lead to water damage to your home.
To make your through-the-wall air conditioners last as long as possible, remove them from the wall, remove the casing, and clean out the interior. This process is substantially more involved, and you should consider hiring a professional contractor to handle more intensive maintenance. Scheduling annual professional maintenance can greatly help extend the lifespan of your air conditioners.
For more information, contact an AC contractor near you.