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Three Things You Can Do to Protect Your Outdoor Unit This Winter


If your central air conditioning system has settled down for a long winter’s nap, then you will want to protect your system’s outdoor components during the months of inactivity. Your air conditioner’s compressor and condenser coils are located in the outdoor unit, and if they are neglected during the cold months of the year, you may be surprised to learn they have failed come summer.

Below are three tips that can help you protect the compressor, condenser, and other outdoor components during winter.

Keep Out Pests and Other Animals

Wild animals, insects, and even pets can cause significant damage to outdoor air conditioning system components. The enclosed space inside the cabinet of an outdoor unit is a tempting shelter from the harsh cold, and you will need to seal off the unit from pests.

If you don’t, all kinds of creatures will find their way into the cabinet surrounding the compressor and condenser coils. Once inside, pests will chew on wiring, urinate and defecate on electronic components, and create fire hazards by filling spaces with straw and other bedding materials.

To keep insects and animals out of this vulnerable space, you will need to seal off possible entrances to your outdoor unit. This step can be accomplished by using commercially available covers that encase your unit. Once in place, these covers seal off most potential openings that can admit pests. In addition, after wrapping the outside, always check around the underside of outdoor units to spot openings that may still exist.

If you locate any such openings, you can insert steel wool into gaps and cracks, as rodents don’t like the texture in their mouths.

Turn Off All Power to the Outdoor Unit

Another means of protecting your central air conditioning system’s outdoor unit is to turn off the power supply to the compressor. Inside the compressor, there is a special oil that never needs to be changed and that lubricates the interior of the compressor. Should temperatures get too low, the oil will thicken and become a drag on rotation. As a consequence, the compressor will seize and fail.

You need to turn off all electrical power leading to the compressor. An accidental activation could be destructive, especially if it comes during the coldest part of the year. Since most modern-day central air conditioning systems utilize a power switch to turn off the exterior components, simply flip the main switch to disconnect power.

This switch is usually located next to the unit itself, so be sure to follow electrical cables until you find it. In addition, just to be extra safe, you may also wish to turn off the thermostat for the air conditioning system if it is separate from the heating system.

Clean the Area Around the Outdoor Unit

Another winter damage prevention tip is to clean the area surrounding the outdoor unit by removing limbs, leaves, dead grass, paper, plastic trash bags, and other objects. Any of these things pose a fire risk when the unit is turned back on in summer. They also restrict air flow through the condenser coils. And, if debris is consistently moist, it can be a cause metal components to corrode.

When cleaning around the outdoor unit, cut grass and plants away from the edges. You may also wish to spray this same area with an herbicide to further restrict plant growth in the future. However, be careful not to completely denude the ground next to the unit, as bare ground can lead to erosion and shifting of the unit’s foundation.

If you find that the platform has shifted, then contact a qualified air conditioning service professional to restore the unit to a level position.

Use these tips to protect your outdoor A/C unit this winter, and if you have any concerns, call an HVAC professional.

Posted in: Air Conditioning

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