Seasonal detritus, such as leaves, grass clippings, dust, and even nests, can reduce efficiency. By coupling maintenance with a new enclosure for the unit, you can also turn an eyesore on the side of your house into something eye-catching. How To Do It:
Start by trimming any bushes or overhanging branches that may impede airflow. Next, turn off the power and carefully brush out debris from the fins. Hose down the unit from top to bottom. Straighten any bent fins with a special tool called a fin comb. Consult your owner's manual about where to put lubricating oil. Last, hide the unit behind decorative lattice, such as the hinged three-panel Belfast Privacy Screen by New England Arbors (about $180; hayneedle.com
) made of weather-resistant, no-paint PVC. The Payoff:
You'll save about $100 to $250 a year in professional cleaning services and up to 40 percent in energy costs.