A do-it-yourself approach will only scratch the surface because it is hard to reach some of the ventilation running underneath the floor or into the wall. Although it may help in clearing some of the dust and debris, you really need a professional to guarantee your system is truly spotless. The proper procedure involves the use of a powerful vacuum system with multi-brush attachments designed to loosen debris and feed into the suction. Particles are then blown outside of the house or passed through a HEPA filter inside.
PickHVAC Tips: First, see the PickHVAC tip above about sizing a central air conditioner. It applies to heat pumps just as much. Secondly, Even if the line set for the new heat pump is the correct size, we recommend replacing the set or at least the fittings. Old lines and fittings are a major source of leaks. When refrigerant leaks out, the heat pump efficiency suffers. Eventually, the unit stops providing heating and air conditioning, and it might break down.
Good article, but it fails to point out that leaky return-side ducts could be drawing dust and allergens into the duct system from the enclosed spaces in which they run, e.g. between walls, below floors, attic. So duct cleaning may only be a temporary solution. The homeowner can get a home energy audit -- free in many states -- to determine if they have significant duct leakage. An Aeroseal dealer may be able to effectively seal up the duct system without needing to tear into walls etc to get to the ducts.
Clean the condenser fan blades before the start of the cooling season. Brush any dust or debris off gently and then uncover the condenser coils, gently cleaning the dirty side. Then wrap the motor and other electrical components in plastic bags and gently spray from the inside with a hose. Now check the base pan under the unit and clear it out of any debris that has gathered.
Some systems include an "economizer mode", which is sometimes called a "free-cooling mode". When economizing, the control system will open (fully or partially) the outside air damper and close (fully or partially) the return air damper. This will cause fresh, outside air to be supplied to the system. When the outside air is cooler than the demanded cool air, this will allow the demand to be met without using the mechanical supply of cooling (typically chilled water or a direct expansion "DX" unit), thus saving energy. The control system can compare the temperature of the outside air vs. return air, or it can compare the enthalpy of the air, as is frequently done in climates where humidity is more of an issue. In both cases, the outside air must be less energetic than the return air for the system to enter the economizer mode.