Winterizing your air conditioner is a fast and easy way to protect expensive equipment from harsh winter weather. Below we are going to outline the simple step you can take to make sure your AC runs like new when warmer weather arrives.
Shut down your air conditioner at the source.
Just like a car engine, your air conditioning system uses lubricants to reduce internal friction. When temperatures drop, the oil inside may lose viscosity and not properly lubricate parts, namely the compressor. Weather can be unpredictable. After several weeks of bitter cold, temperatures may unexpectedly rise. Warmer outside weather may unexpectedly trip the air conditioner to turn on. This is not a problem if the weather is going to stay warm over the next several days, but if the AC continues to run after the weather turns cold, parts may wear faster. To prevent this from happening, locate your air conditioning power supply (possibly located on the wall directly behind or inside the system underneath a cover) and turn the power off. Don’t rely only on your thermostat to keep the AC from running. Refer to manufacturer’s instructions for specific details and other steps you may need to take.
Blast away dead bugs, leaves, dirt and debris with the hose.
Lots of things will find their way inside your air conditioner during warmer months. Pick a sunny day with temperatures that are at least 60 degrees F, turn the system off using the power switch as described above, and get close enough to blast everything with a hose. Sweep up any debris and dispose of it in the trash. Do not try to run the AC again until it is thoroughly dry.
Cover your air conditioner during harsh weather, but don’t leave it on.
Your air conditioner is a big, robust piece of hardware. It is designed to sit outside year round, and it’s unlikely a few bad weather events will cause immediate damage. Still, there are reasons why you would want to cover your AC system.
Use a cover if you expect hail, blizzards, or plenty of rainfall just before a harsh freeze. Following these weather events, when the sun comes out, remove the cover so that animals won’t try to take shelter and moisture evaporates. If you plan to leave your AC covered, make sure to provide adequate airflow from underneath and periodically check for animals, and don’t let snow or debris build up. There are specially made covers designed for air conditioners, but you can make your own temporary cover from plywood, garbage bags, and bungie cords.
Save on energy costs and install foam covers around pipes.
You should cover all hoses and pipes running to and from your air conditioner year round! Visit your local hardware store and look for foam covers that are pre-cut or cut-to-fit. These will help to prevent cold air from entering your home in the winter, and there will be less heat soak during hot summer months. We recommend a liberal use of duct tape to seal these foam covers for the entire year. Remove periodically to check for wear or cracks in hoses and pipes, then reseal.
You need to take extra care with window air conditioners.
Follow the steps as outlined by the manufacturer. You may not have to remove the system; however, window air conditioners are far more likely to leak cold air and suffer damage from freezing temperatures. In addition, ice and snow buildup may stress mounting brackets, and could rip the system from the window and damage the window frame. Besides a protective covering, you may need to use a piece of lumber to prop up the system from below.
Contact your local HVAC specialist in the spring.
A local technician can inspect your air conditioner for damage, and top off the coolant before temperatures rise. They will make sure everything turns back on, there are no leaks, and cold air is blowing out of vents. They may be running specials on inspections just before winter or spring, so keep an eye on local ads for details.
With your air conditioner squared away for another year, you have one less thing to worry about so you can continue to invest your time and money elsewhere!