Preparing your condenser (the outdoor portion of your central air conditioner) for winter is easier than you might think. And it’s a good thing to do. Without protection, it could clog up and rust.
To keep your air conditioner running as long as possible, follow these few steps so that you won’t have to pay for costly repairs next year.
Make sure to get any needed repairs done before shutting it down. Often, your air conditioner will let if its malfunctioning: loud noises, leakage, if your home is not evenly cooled and, most telling, if your energy bills are too high. Don’t wait till the spring. Make sure to deal with this now so it doesn’t cost you more later.
These are the supplies you’ll need:
- A clean rag and a brush
- A cover – plywood and a brick / breathable full cover
- A water hose
- Foam pipe covers
- Duct tape
Six Easy Steps
- Shut down
Find your thermostat and switch the air conditioning from “on” or “auto” mode to “off”.
Locate the power switch near the outdoor condenser unit. It’s usually behind a flip lid. Switch it to the Off position. This prevents the unit from turning on if there is an unusually warm winter day. It also keeps water out of the unit that could freeze.
Just to be super safe, you could turn your AC electrical panels off as well.
- Clean or replace the air filter
Filters in your unit play an important role in keeping dust, pollen and other impurities out of circulation. If you replace or clean them now, your unit will be ready to go next summer.
- Remove debris and wash the condenser
If you haven’t done so already, make sure to cut any weeds, leaves, sticks and grass around the unit as this can attract rodents. These creatures are attracted to vegetation and will try to nest in your unit. Chewed wiring is a major problem so it’s a good idea to keep the critters away in the cold months.
Use a brush or a wet cloth to clean off any debris, twigs, and leaves from the unit. Use a hose to clean off any dirt, dust or droppings. Go slowly with a hose. Don’t bend the fins – use just enough water pressure and at a straight angle. Make sure to hose around the bottom as well. (This is an excellent routine to get into once or twice in the summer as well, if your usage has been heavy). Then let your unit dry before you go onto the next step.
If your unit is especially dirty it may not be enough to simply hose it down. There are cleaning products on the market to help with this, but it may be wiser to call a professional to do a thorough job.
- Inspect the condenser and exterior pipes
Look for cracks and rust in the casing. Make sure that the seal is tight and has no cracks. This may not seem to be a big issue, but the harsh winter weather can only make things worse. If any of these signs are visible its best to call a professional to repair the problem.
- Install foam pipe covers
Your exterior pipes need to be protected from frost. Use foam pipe covers around the A/C unit’s exposed pipes and wiring, especially those that go into your home. First take elbow-shaped foam covers and install them on the corners of your pipes. Some of these have adhesive which makes it easier. Measure the remaining pipe. Cut the foam to fit the pipe. Use duct tape to keep the foam insulation in place. The insulation keeps wires and the fluid within pipes from freezing, which keeps the pipes from cracking.
- To cover or not to cover
There are many different opinions on this topic. Some sources suggest covering the whole unit with a plastic or vinyl cover and tying it up with bungee cord.
Covering the unit with plastic or vinyl will protect your air conditioner from falling leaves, snow and rain. However, plastic and vinyl do not breathe, and they trap condensation which could cause your unit to rust and grow mold (especially in the spring when the weather gets warmer). Insects may be attracted to this environment as well. If you want to use a full cover, use breathable material.
Fall weather can actually be harder on your unit than winter. Leaves and seeds falling into the unit can create moisture which can cause corrosion. Covering the top of your unit for the fall and winter seems like a good compromise. This prevents leaves, sticks and icicles from falling into the top of your unit. Check your owner’s manual for the manufacturer’s recommendation.
- Check on your unit often
Make sure to check your outside air conditioner often during the winter. Brush off any snow, ice and water from the cover. Remove any debris from around the unit. Adjust the cover if it has loosened or moved.
So that’s it. Now you can relax and enjoy the fall colours.
And remember that for repair, maintenance, or replacement of your central air conditioning unit, Forney Air is just a phone call away at (214) 924-9745.