Air Conditioner Grill [Detailed Guide]

An air conditioner grill is a cover that protects the return and intake vents. The condenser also has a grill protecting the coils, fan, and compressor. Learn more about an air conditioner grill in this article.

How to Clean an Outside Air Conditioner Grill

The outdoor air conditioning unit is usually the part that houses the condenser and compressor. If you want to clean the grill covering the condenser, disconnect the unit from electric power; you can turn off the power from the disconnect box or turn off the breaker for the air conditioner. Next, unthread the screws holding the grill in place. Once the screws are out, you can lift the grill off the unit.

Lay it aside and use a vacuum to remove the dust and debris from it. The location of the grill exposes it to a significant amount of dirt, and if you have never cleaned it, it should be grimy. After cleaning it with the vacuum, inspect it to see if there is a need for further cleaning. If so, hose it down with a garden hose. 

Ensure you set some paces away from the exposed coils and compressor so you do not get dirt or water on the motors. Spraying the grill with water should loosen stubborn dirt, so you can clean it off. Keep cleaning the grill until you remove all the dirt. While at it, clean the condenser unit, including the surrounding area. Follow the instructions in this article on cleaning an air conditioner condenser unit to ensure the outside unit is clean.

If your air conditioner is a wall or window unit, and you need to clean the outside grill, you must remove the cover. If you cannot remove the cover, use a brush to remove the dirt from the back cover. A vacuum also works, but you must handle it carefully so you do not damage any of the internal parts. However, you may want to follow the instructions in the user manual to remove the grill, clean it, and clean the condenser coil as well.

How to Clean an Air Conditioner Grill

If you want to clean an indoor grill, a vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment may do the job. Regularly cleaning the grill and air conditioner makes the job easier, so you only have to run the brush through the grill and remove the dirt. However, if there is a significant amount of dirt on the grill, you may have to unmount it for a thorough cleaning.

Get a degreaser spray and apply it to the grill to soften the grime for easy removal. Lay the grill down on a towel before spraying it so that it can catch the excess. Allow the spray to soak into the grill for about ten minutes before wiping it with a cloth. Repeat the process if there are still stubborn stains and dirt on the grill.

Types of Air Conditioner Grill

There are many types of air conditioner grills, but four types stand out and are most commonly used by air conditioner manufacturers. There are louver grills, linear bar grills, deflection grills, and external weather louver grills. Of all four types, the louver grills are the commonest in modern air conditioners.

1. Louver Grill

Most people know these grills as return air grills and are the types that do not allow airflow in different directions. In other words, they are like blades, fixed to one angle and directing airflow in one direction. They are not weatherproof and since they are fixed to one angle, it is usually difficult to keep the rain out. The same is true for small animals and rodents.

2. Linear Bar Grill

A linear bar grill is more common in restaurants and hotels because of its beauty. It is slimmer, narrower, and longer than the louver grill. It typically does not have controls for directing airflow, so it functions much the same as a louver grill. However, it is usually more expensive and is only available in aluminum, whereas louver grills come in aluminum or galvanized iron materials.

One advantage of the linear bar grill is that it can be made to curve. Some buildings have curved walls and these will require grills to accommodate the shape. Unlike the louver grill and other types, architects choose this type because of its curving capacity. But it will need a plenum box for air volume control, and this takes up more space.

3. Deflection Grill

A deflection grill is not very common, although it has its uses. The grill looks like bars that run vertically and horizontally. You will find a single deflection grill and a double deflection grill. The single deflection type is less common than the double deflection type. The single deflection grill has only airflow controls that go in a vertical direction. But the double deflection grill has controls that go in vertical and horizontal directions.

4. External Weather Louver Grill

This type of grill is similar to the louver grill but with one vital difference: it keeps the rain out. It works even if there are strong winds outside. The design is such that it also keeps insects out with the help of a screen. The screen keeps dirt, insects, and rodents from finding their way into the ductwork. It has narrower blades than the louver grill, which makes it more effective.

Note: An air conditioner grill is not exactly the same as a diffuser. While the grill channels air in one direction, the diffuser spreads the air in different directions. Apart from this difference, a grill and diffuser are the same.

Air Conditioner Grill Replacement – Steps

If you want to replace the grill on your air conditioner, ensure you have the correct replacement part. Contact the manufacturing brand or find an authorized parts dealer and use the air conditioner’s model number to purchase the replacement.

Next, turn the air conditioner off. That means disconnecting it from electric power. Get a screwdriver and unthread the screws holding the grill to the air conditioner. Some units may not have screws, so you may simply pull them off. However, it is crucial to consult the user manual for proper instructions on removing the grill for your specific brand and model.

Lift the vent off and note the correct orientation for putting the new one in place. Position the new grill in place over the air conditioner, ensuring it is balanced. Insert the screws into the holes and tighten them using a screwdriver. Check the grill by giving it a wiggle to ensure it is tight and secure.

Note: The same steps apply to a central air conditioner, but the grill is usually on the wall or ceiling. You will need a ladder or chair to reach it, and this may mean finding a helper to keep the balance. Otherwise, use the services of a professional HVAC technician to replace the grill.

Air Conditioner Grill Freezes Over – How to Fix

A frozen air conditioner grill is only a symptom of a more serious problem. If you find ice on the grill of an air conditioner, it means the entire system is frozen and you are only just noticing it. Disconnect the air conditioner from electric power to melt the ice, but this is only a temporary solution. You will need to find the source of the problem for a permanent fix.

The number of hours you leave the air conditioner unplugged will depend on the level of ice buildup visible on the grill. It may last between 30 minutes and 24 hours. Once all the ice melts, ensure you completely dry the air conditioner, including the filter and fan. This may take another number of hours, but it is crucial to prevent additional freezing.

Possible Causes of Freezing

The most likely cause of an air conditioner freezing is a dirty air filter. Due to its function of trapping air pollutants, the filter quickly gets grimy and requires cleaning or a replacement, depending on the type and length of usage. Dirt blocks airflow, which consequently causes the air conditioner to freeze. Replace the filter every two months or clean it every two weeks.

Also, check the fan and thermostat settings. If the outside temperature is high, like in the summer months, setting the fan at low speed can put a strain on the air conditioner. Air circulation drops and with the cold refrigerant in the evaporator coil, the cold air remains trapped and freezes the unit. The reverse is the case if the weather is cold. Set the fan and thermostat to appropriate settings so the cold refrigerant does not cause the coil and air conditioner to freeze.

If the blower fan is faulty, the cold air also remains trapped in the air conditioner. The blower circulates the air after the refrigerant cools it. But if it stops working, moisture can build on the evaporator coil and freeze over time. Have a service technician check the fan and make necessary repairs or replacements.

Blocked air vents cause the air conditioner to freeze. You may try cleaning the vent and end up closing or blocking them in the process. If you do not open them, the cold air will remain trapped in the air conditioner and eventually lead to freezing. Take a look at the supply vents to ensure they are open. Check to see if cold air flows out and that nothing obstructs the vents.

You may also check the drain pan and drain line. A clogged drain line prevents water from flowing out of the drain pan. The water eventually back into the air conditioner and freezes as you continue to run the unit. If the pan is dirty, remove and clean it with warm soapy water. Unclog the drain line with a thin wire, pushing the dirt out. The condensate water should flow freely out of the unit.

Furthermore, a dirty evaporator coil cannot perform the heat transfer for the refrigerant. And when the refrigerant makes the coil cold without a proper heat transfer, the moisture freezes and blocks the coil. The air conditioner must be regularly serviced to prevent dirt from clogging the coil and other vital components within the system. But while you wait for professional assistance, turn off cooling and run the Fan mode of operation to melt the ice.

Another possibility is a failed compressor. If the compress in the air conditioner is failing, it cannot efficiently pump the refrigerant to the coil, which causes a drop in pressure and eventual freezing. The reason is that the coil remains cold and any condensation on it freezes, leading to an ice buildup. Compressor issues are complex, and you will need an HVAC technician to fix or replace the compressor.

A final possible cause is a system leak. If the refrigerant is leaking from the sealed system, the amount in the system drops and causes the remaining refrigerant to expand as it transitions from liquid to gas. This expansion causes the temperature to drop and the coil to freeze. If you suspect a refrigerant leak, turn off the air conditioner and call for professional help; the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) recommends using a professional technician to fix a refrigerant leak. Ensure the room or area has proper cross ventilation to prevent refrigerant poisoning.

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