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How to Winterize Your Air-Conditioning Unit the Right WayIf you’re like me (and thousands of other homeowners), you have a set list of chores you do around the house depending on the season. Now that fall is in full swing, I’ve started working on prepping my house for the winter before I’m buried neck-deep in snow and seasonal affective disorder.

One of the first things I make sure I do is winterize my central air conditioner. I’m not joking when I tell you how horrible it is to start your air conditioner on that first hot day of spring, and nothing but hot air blows out. Anything over 72 degrees makes me start to twitch, and once we’re up in the 80s, it’s game over. So you can imagine how important it is for me to make sure my air conditioner is well taken care of.

Conventional wisdom tells us it’s important to cover and wrap your outdoor unit like it’s a Christmas present for a nosy relative. I remember my dad taking a tarp to his, and wrapping it tight with bungee cords like it was his job. And if you do an online search about how to winterize your air conditioner, most sites will tell you to do the same.

In order to make sure I can have my precious, precious air conditioning in the summer, I’ve researched the heck out of this idea. And I’ll have you know, just because this method is popular, that doesn’t mean it’s right. According to my research and to the HVAC professionals I’ve spoken with, here’s the right way to winterize your air conditioner.

Step 1 – Clean out the area surrounding your unit. Make sure there aren’t any leaves, sticks, branches, bushes, clutter or debris in the two-to-three foot radius around your air conditioner. This will help prevent clogging, rust and damage to your unit. Plus, it discourages any animals from taking up a cozy residence in your system. Fact – animal damage is one of the main causes of damage to air-conditioning units.

Step 2 – Cover the top of your unit with plywood. Get a large square of plywood and set it on top of the system. Put a brick or a large rock on top of that to keep it in place, and voila! You’re done. This will help keep any falling leaves, snow or ice out of your system while preventing damage from snow and sleet.

That’s it. No step three. No covering the unit. You see, by covering the unit so tightly, you wind up trapping in a lot of the things you’re trying to keep out, like moisture, condensation and any residual debris. Think about it this way: the unit was made to stay outside, so don’t worry about protecting it from the outside.

Keeping your air-conditioning unit in good working order doesn’t take a long time, but can have long-term benefits. If you take care of your system throughout the winter, you can rest assured you’ll have a crisp and cool summer!

This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. Many years ago I also believed in covering the outside unit only to find it made a great home for mice. Now I have left mine uncovered in Michigan for 22 years without a single issue.

  2. Maybe you should explain to people who have a heat pump to not do this. I’m sure many don’t know they even have a heat pump.

    1. Hi Gary:

      I’m not an expert in air conditioning, but we try to find you the answer. According to some of the guides I see online, you should cut the power to the condenser. Hope this helps!

      Kevin Graham

  3. Very useful, I enjoyed reading. Good points, especially about covering the top of your unit with plywood…not many people realise this.

  4. I live in a wooded area where leaves and acorns are always falling into my air-condition unit I took a snow saucer flip it upside down, center over the screen with 5 inch risers spray painted it silver to match the carrier unit it is now winterized and runs all summer like this you really need a picture of this

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