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Rake Leaves, Check. Clean Gutters, Check. Central A.C. TLC, Check (or should be).

Now that Autumn is in full swing, and crisp, cooler temps are the norm it’s time to devote some TLC to your air conditioner. In less than an hour you can fully prep your outdoor air handler so it can easily withstand harsh winter weather; not only will it be shielded from snow and ice, it will also thwart potential rust and corrosion. Here are some simple steps that anybody can undertake to safeguard their HVAC investment.

First, hit the kill switch on the exterior power to the unit. This power switch is usually located on the house right near the A.C., inside a plastic or metal housing. Flip this switch to “off.” By cutting off the power you will be protected from possible electrocution when working around the unit. It will also ensure that the unit is not inadvertently turned on during an unseasonably warm day, thereby keeping water out of the unit which could possibly freeze and cause serious damage.

Now trim any vegetation, and clear any debris immediately surrounding the unit. Remove any leaves, sticks, grass clippings, pine needles, etc. from the system. Using a hose, spray down the fan blades and condensing coils to get rid of any dust, dirt, droppings, or dead insects. Give it adequate time to dry off.

If you really want to go whole-hog, feel free to install foam covers over exterior piping. Find the respective diameter foam and cut to length. Employ duct tape to secure the pipe covers in place. This foam will insulate the pipes and serve as a buffer against freezing temps. By the way, you can leave this foam in place year-round.

In regard to covering the unit, there is some debate on that front (for in-depth analysis click here) but it’s advisable to erect some protective barrier in especially harsh climates. You can purchase a size-specific cover or opt for any vinyl or plastic tarp that’s waterproof and fits properly. Use bungee cords or rope to ensure the cover is tight and won’t blow away in heavy wind gusts. If you decide not to cover the unit all around, simply place a piece of plywood on top of the unit to protect against falling ice or debris.

As winter proceeds, check the A.C. periodically. See that the cover is snug and clear off any snow, ice, or water. This winter weatherization will help foster a smooth transition come Spring and Summer when the air conditioner is utilized.


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