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How To Prepare Your Air Conditioning System for Winter

If you are a wise homeowner, you realize that it is important to keep your home’s HVAC system running smoothly. Its condition directly affects your family’s comfort whether it’s staying cool on the hottest summer days or keeping warm in the middle of winter. With the coming of cooling temperatures, your thoughts are probably turning toward the heating portion of this system to ensure it will be ready for the worst freezing temperatures. This is very smart and you should test your heat before winter actually hits to make sure all is well with it.

You should also make sure your air conditioner is prepared to weather the winter months. Your air conditioning system consists of two units. The evaporator unit is indoors and the condenser unit is outside. Since this outdoor unit will be bearing the brunt of any winter temperatures and elements, this will be the focus of the following tips to prepare it for the winter.

Clean the Condenser Unit

According to Five Star Air Conditioning, heading into fall is an excellent time to give your condenser unit a final cleaning season. This helps you start it up again next spring or summer with peace of mind. Because it is outdoors, this unit may have accumulated leaves, twigs and other assorted debris that could have fallen down into it or be clogging the slats in the sides of the external covering.

The first thing to do before any step that involves opening this unit is to make sure the power to it is off. There will be a disconnect box near the condenser. After ensuring the unit is not running, you simply lift the cover on the disconnect box and pull the disconnect block out, turn it upside down and re-insert it.

You can start cleaning the unit by sweeping any leaves or other brush off the top of it and cutting back or removing any bushes, branches or leaves clogging the slats in the side of the cover panels. Then, lift the top cover off and use a hose to spray down into it. While spraying down also be spraying out to the sides since this will help wash any dirt or debris out from the condenser coil’s fins inside the unit.

Examine the Unit

Admittedly, if you’re not an HVAC professional, you may not be able to spot all of the problems with an air conditioning system. That said, there are still a few obvious things to look for. Are there any cracks or rust in the unit’s casing? Do you see any leaks, frayed or loose wiring, or other things you aren’t sure about? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you should have the unit inspected by an HVAC professional either now or certainly before you start using it again next spring.

Covering the Condenser Unit?

There are waterproof, vinyl or plastic covers that are sold specifically for covering air conditioning condenser units. You probably don’t want to use one of these. Some air conditioner manufacturers do not suggest there use since they can lock moisture in and speed up corrosion in the unit. Also, the cover would create a warm space underneath it for critters to make themselves a home. Simply cover the unit with a piece of plywood to protect against hail or falling icicles and keep it in place either by tying it down or putting a few bricks on it.

Keep the Power Off

After you turned off the power through the disconnect box before preparing the unit, don’t be in a hurry to turn it back on again. The compressor in the condenser unit has oil in it, and if temperatures are very low, this oil will be too thick to do its job. Should your air conditioner get accidentally turned on at this time, then it can damage the compressor by causing it to overheat. So, just keep the power off until you are ready to start up your air conditioning at the beginning of the next warm season.

Regular Maintenance

Doing the above steps should give you peace of mind that your air conditioner will be there for you when you need it for next summer. Beyond the above steps, you should just check the air filter to make sure it’s clean before you start running the heat for the winter. Also, it’s important to remember that, like any complex piece of machinery, your HVAC unit needs regular maintenance from an HVAC professional. There are only so many problems you’ll be able to spot yourself. The spring or fall seasons are the best times to have someone come out and give your HVAC system a thorough looking over since you won’t be using it much then.

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