Finding styrofoam inside your window air conditioner may have come as a surprise to you. You must’ve thought to yourself, “why is there a piece of foam in my unit?”.
The styrofoam in the AC unit is not merely a piece of foam or part of the packaging; it is, in fact, a crucial component of the air conditioner.
Almost every air conditioner has what is technically known as white Extended Polystyrene. This is what is commonly called Styrofoam. Think of it as the same kind of foam you find in insulated coolers and cups.
Styrofoam is an important part of your window AC unit and plays a crucial role in the performance of the unit.
So, if you’ve ever thought about removing it, it’s best to keep that thought out of your mind because it won’t take long before you call in an expert to fix the problem you’ll cause.
But, why exactly is there styrofoam in the AC and what is its purpose and function in the overall operation of the unit?
Why Is There Styrofoam Inside of a Window Air Conditioner?
Let’s get right to it; the major reason for including styrofoam in an AC unit is insulation. Styrofoam insulates the attic found in the air ducts.
This is to provide sealing against unwanted airflow as well as moisture and condensation that may form in and around the unit. This thermal insulation is certainly necessary to keep the air conditioner performing at an optimum level.
There is also the role of providing housing for the unit’s internal fan to keep things going.
Also, styrofoam helps to ensure the AC can work within its own space and work better within a shorter time. In very simple terms, styrofoam is what keeps the unit airtight, ensuring that outdoor air stays outside.
Styrofoam is used because of its lightweight nature and is suitable for portable and compact components.
Note that while it will keep air away and prevent moisture buildup, some amount of light may be seen coming through because of its pretty low density, but this is in very minimal quantities and shouldn’t trouble you at all.
Should There Be Styrofoam Inside Every Air Conditioner?
Generally, styrofoam should be used in all window air conditioners. It is important to emphasize that it is mostly necessary for window air conditioners and not all air conditioners.
It is considered the most preferred material for many reasons and many manufacturers use it for insulation purposes. However, there are a few types of air conditioners that do not necessarily need styrofoam.
Typically portable and ventless units are good examples. The reason is simple; these types of units do not necessarily have to be installed on windows and have a different kind of air-out system.
But in terms of whether there should be styrofoam in every air conditioner really depends on the mechanism of the unit.
If there’s no threat of moisture buildup or condensation and the external structure of the unit is built to prevent airflow interference, then it may not require styrofoam and it’s unlikely you’ll find it in the unit.
This is common with portable units that are standalone and do not require window installation. They’re also ventless, so insulation from interference may not be required.
Can We Remove Styrofoam from Inside of Air Conditioner?
Styrofoam can be removed from the inside of an air conditioner, but it should not. You should only remove styrofoam if you intend to replace it. If your AC comes with styrofoam inside the unit, do NOT remove it.
It is a useful component and contributes to the general performance of your unit. If the styrofoam has worked for many years and lost its effectiveness or experienced some level of degradation, you’ll need to replace it.
Simply pop it out and put it aside. Ensure that you’ve taken the correct measurement of the area between the air conditioner and the window frame.
Next thing is to cut the replacement styrofoam to shape. Ensure the width and length of your cuts are slightly larger than the space to be covered to ensure the styrofoam is forced in and covers all spaces.
If you’re not looking to replace the styrofoam, we must emphasize that you do NOT remove it.
How To Clean Styrofoam Inside Air Conditioner?
Even though styrofoam is naturally a water-resistant material and does need to trap water, it tends to be affected by mold over time and can be covered by some level of dirt.
But this happens to be in very small amounts because styrofoam does not have any organic materials which often serve as food to mold.
But in severe conditions where the integrity of the styrofoam is affected, mold tends to grow. It’s important to clean it regularly to ensure the air going into your room is clean and healthy at all times.
While some people suggest you may simply clean the AC styrofoam by scrubbing the mold and dirt off with a brush or cloth or by soaking the cloth or brush in a mixture of a gallon of water and a quarter cup of bleach, or directly spraying the mixture onto the styrofoam and wiping off with a cloth, others say it is best to remove it before cleaning.
Below listed are the steps to carry out the cleaning of the styrofoam inside the air conditioner.
1. Turn off your AC
Do not simply stop at turning the unit off, unplug it as well. This is the first thing you should do to ensure your safety and prevent electrocution. This applies to all electronics and electrical appliances.
2. Remove the Styrofoam
This is easy to do and only requires a simple pop-out. It is best to remove it so that you can reach every part of the styrofoam and achieve a 360-degree cleaning. Otherwise, some dirt and mold may be hiding behind and may spread eventually.
3. Clean thoroughly
Where it’s just dirt and dust, you can easily clean it off using a piece of damp cloth and cleaning spray. If there’s mold, however, you’ll need way more than that to get rid of it.
Hot water, bleach and dish soap will come in handy here. You should be careful with the bleach though as it can affect your lungs when inhaled.
Take a half cup of bleach and mix it with a tablespoon of dish soap and about three gallons of hot water. You’ll need to protect your eyes with a face mask or glasses and your hands with gloves before mixing them up.
Dip a sponge, cloth or brush in the mixture and use it to scrub the affected area thoroughly. You can do this as many times as possible until the mold is completely removed.
4. Soak the Styrofoam
Maybe you’ve not cleaned your styrofoam in a while and deep cleaning is required. You can mix an industrial cleaner with water in a container and dip the styrofoam inside.
You should leave it to soak for a while so that the grime is broken down and removed. The number of times you do this dip depends on how dirty the item is.
Once clean, you should wipe with a dry cloth to remove excess water. Then air dry or sun dry it and make sure it is completely dry.
5. Reinstall the Styrofoam
Once you’re sure it is perfectly clean and dry, you should carefully put it back in place ensuring there are no spaces or gaps for air to go through.
Don’t be surprised to find styrofoam in your window air conditioner. And, No. It is not a packaging component that needs to be removed. It is a part of your unit and should be left to do its job.
This post has clearly pointed out what that is, as well as how you can care for and clean your AC styrofoam. And, not too worry. The styrofoam doesn’t pose any danger or hazard, and it’s completely safe as long as you don’t swallow it.