The dog days of summer are slipping behind us and the crisp feel of fall is in the air. If you haven’t already shut the air conditioner down for the year, you probably will be soon. Preparing your outdoor air conditioning unit for the winter before the cold months hit will prevent problems from cropping up when you turn it on next year.
Cleaning the Air Conditioner
Before performing any maintenance or repair on your air conditioning unit, you need to cut off its power source, or you could receive a nasty shock and a brand new hairdo. If you’re inexperienced with home maintenance, this might be a good time of year to have a professional HVAC tech come out and perform your regular maintenance. If you’re planning on doing the work yourself, the power to your air conditioner can usually be shut off using a switch located under the plastic or metal lid covering the electrical circuit.
Once you’ve shut off the power, clear away all of the debris from around and inside the unit. Dirt, twigs, leaves and trash can be blown into the unit on windy days where they can collect moisture and cause other problems. Once you’ve cleared away all the obvious debris, hose the whole air conditioning unit down with water and allow it to dry completely before finishing the winterizing process.
Insulating the Air Conditioner
The exterior pipes of the air conditioning unit are exposed to the weather and can be damaged when temperatures plummet during the wintertime. Insulating the pipes will keep them from freezing, just like a good pair of boots protect your feet. Foam insulating pads can be found at most home improvement stores. Wrap them around the pipes and cover them with duct tape to insulate the pipes against the cold.
Keeping the Water Out
Water getting into the air conditioning unit when it’s not in use is the biggest cause of winter damage, because it can cause components to rust and malfunction. Water can accumulate during a warmer day, and then freeze when things cool down again. This expansion can put pressure on the AC components and cause damage. To avoid this problem, make sure your AC is well covered.
There are custom-made air conditioner covers that work great, but any tarp or waterproof material will work fine. Wrap the cover around the unit tightly, then tie bungee cords or ropes around it to hold it in place on windy days. Go out periodically, say once a week, to brush snow, water and debris off the cover and to make sure it’s staying in place.
If you’re unable to prepare your AC yourself, or you have more questions about the process, contact your local maintenance and landscaping company for advice.