Three Tips For Protecting Your Air Conditioner During Winter

While central air conditioners are all-weather machines built to withstand the outdoor elements, taking time to prepare these units for seasonal changes can minimize the risk of damage from weather-related issues such as rusting. Here are three things you can do to winterize your air conditioner so it emerges from the cold season healthy and ready to work in the spring.

Clean the Unit and the Area Around It

Start winterizing your unit by cleaning the air conditioner as well as the area around it. This is particularly important if your unit is located near trees that have been shedding their leaves around it all fall season. In addition to sticking to the frame of the machine and causing rust damage, the leaves can sometimes get inside the air conditioner and cause clogs that prevent the machine from operating efficiently or cause it to break down altogether when it gets turned on in the spring.

Typically, you can wash the air conditioner off by spraying it with a garden hose. Just be certain to do it on a day when it's relatively dry and breezy so the unit can air out. Additionally, you'll want to make of habit of keeping the area around the air conditioner clean to discourage small animals and pests from making their homes there.

Cover the Top with a Piece of Hard Plastic or Wood

It is not necessary to encase the entire air conditioning unit with a specially designed cover. In actuality, putting a cover on the machine is counterproductive because it can trap moisture inside the unit that can freeze and attract small animals looking for shelter, both of which can cause expensive and extensive damage to the air conditioner.

For instance, a repair man found a snake living inside an a/c unit when he went to evaluate why the machine had stopped working. It may seem like a nice and interesting story to tell a friend, but an animal trapped inside an air conditioner can damage the fan or chew on wires and other components that may cause you to have to spend around $5,200 replacing the entire unit.

While a full cover isn't required, it is a good idea to cover the top of the machine with a piece of hard plastic or wood. This will protect the air conditioner from falling icicles and other debris that may dent or damage the unit. If the piece is long or wide enough, it may also protect the unit from getting completely buried under several feet of snow, which can impact the ability of air to flow through it freely and dry any moisture that may have found its way inside. Place a brick on top of the piece or tie it down with bungee cord to keep it from blowing away or being knocked off by inclement weather.

Turn the Unit Off

The last thing you should do to winterize your air conditioner is to turn it off. Whether you wrapped the entire machine in a cover or only placed a covering on the top, turning on the air conditioner with the cover on can damage the machine. To prevent yourself from accidentally turning on the a/c unit or to keep the machine from turning on automatically, cut the circuit breaker sending power to the air conditioner and leave a note on the circuit box explaining why to stop yourself or someone else from turning it on again without first removing the cover.

For more tips on winterizing your air conditioner or to have yearly maintenance performed, contact an HVAC company for a heating and cooling service.