When the seasons change, we need to take steps to prepare our homes for the cool weather ahead, and this includes the AC system. Many people focus purely on their heating needs at this time, and this is a mistake. In this article, we will explore this topic in more detail to help you make informed choices.

Why Do I Need to Winterize my AC System?

During the winter months, the external AC unit will be exposed to harsher weather conditions. Although the equipment is designed to survive temperature extremes, it’s still prudent to protect the system. When the temperature goes below freezing, and the components are exposed to snow, ice, sleet, and freezing rain, some damage can occur. If you take steps to protect the AC unit now, it is possible to avoid minor and perhaps even major repairs when the warmer weather arrives. When you winterize the AC system, you can also protect it against a number of issues, including moisture, ice falling damage, nesting vermin, corrosion, and more.

15 Steps to Winterize the AC System

Now that you understand the importance of winterizing the AC unit, it’s time to take action. Let’s take a look at fifteen steps that you can take to protect your air conditioner:

  1. Turn off the power to the condenser unit.
  2. Clean the exterior of the unit with a damp cloth.
  3. Use a vacuum cleaner with a soft brush attachment to remove debris from the fins.
  4. The fins are delicate, take your time, and if any are bent out of shape, they must be gently moved back into position.
  5. The best tool to fix bent fins is a flat and blunt tool or a butter knife!
  6. Unscrew the top grill, set it aside and carefully lift out the fan without disconnecting or bending the wires.
  7. Clear away any debris from the AC unit interior.
  8. Wipe down the interior surfaces with a clean and damp cloth.
  9. Use a garden hose with moderate water pressure to spray the fins clean.
  10. Reinsert the fan assembly, reattach the cover and restore the power.
  11. Run the AC system and listen to the compressor.
  12. If you hear any unusual noises, such as: grinding, clunking, or buzzing, something is wrong inside the AC unit.
  13. If you cannot detect where you went wrong, the issue may be a component that needs to be repaired or replaced.
  14. Back indoors, change the AC system air filter to protect the sensitive components and improve the indoor air quality (IAQ).
  15. Congratulations, you’re done, but if you don’t feel confident, contact your local heating and cooling specialist to do the work for you.

4 Additional Steps to Protect the AC Unit

If you’ve followed the steps above in order, you should now have a clean AC unit that’s ready for the colder weather ahead. When the unit is fully dry, it’s time to start thinking about four additional steps that you can take to protect the AC system. They are:

Step 1: Clear and Clear the Area

In many yards, the area around the outdoor AC unit is used as a de facto storage location for a wide variety of garden furniture, ladders, planters, and other sundries. This location may be out of sight, and it can be overlooked when most people are doing yard work. So, it’s not unusual to see long grass, overgrown foliage, and tall bushes around the outdoor AC unit. These obstructions reduce the performance and energy efficiency of the AC system when it’s running in hotter months. During the winter months, any obstructions prevent easy access for cleaning and maintenance. On a windy day, these obstructions may even cause damage to the AC equipment. To avoid this problem, trim back all vegetation to a distance of at least three feet away from the outdoor AC unit. Then bring all garden furniture and other items to the garage or basement and store them there.

Step 2: Insulate the Connected Pipes

The pipes that connect to the AC unit should be covered and insulated to prevent freezing and bursting when the temperatures drop and rise again. This is an important step, the pipes should be covered with foam pipe covers, and this extra layer can make all the difference. It’s unlikely that you’ll get a snug fit. To fix this problem, secure the covers in place with duct tape. The pipes can stay in place all year round; there is no need to remove them when the warmer weather arrives. Simply check them when you’re preparing for the next winter and patch up the foam and duct tape as needed.

Step 3: Cover the AC Unit

After the AC unit has been used for the final time, place an AC cover on it. These covers are readily available at home improvement stores, and the fit shouldn’t be too tight. You need some ventilation around the AC unit to prevent the accumulation of moisture that can cause corrosion. But, you need the cover to be tight enough to deter small animals and birds from taking up residence inside the unit. Alternatively, you can place a sheet of plywood on top of the unit with two feet overhand and secure it in place with a few heavy bricks. After a snowfall, it’s a good idea to go outdoors and give the plywood sheet a brush to remove the ice and snow.

Step 4: Regular Inspections

When the cold weather arrives, it’s all too easy to stay warm and comfortable indoors. But, from time to time, it’s a good idea to inspect the outdoor AC unit to see how it’s holding up in the colder conditions. Take some time to inspect the surrounding area to remove any accumulated debris. Any ice or snow should be removed, and the cover or plywood should be checked to make sure that it’s still offering sufficient protection.

If you want to schedule some essential HVAC maintenance or you’re worried about winterizing your system, contact your local heating and cooling specialist today.