Many homeowners don't think about their air conditioner in the winter, since they're more concerned about their heater. Taking proper care of your home's air conditioner when it's cold and snowing, however, will ensure that it's in good, working condition when temperatures start to heat up. Here's how to care for your air conditioner during the winter.
Turn Your Air Conditioner Off
Turning off an air conditioner might seem like an obvious first step, but not all homeowners realize that central AC units have their own power switch. Usually the switch is close to the unit, and the toggle might be in a small box. To turn your air conditioner off, simply flip this switch.
Turning off your air conditioner with this switch will ensure that the unit won't start up on an unseasonably warm winter day. If your air conditioner turned on for even just one warm day, water could accumulate in its pipes. When winter temperatures dropped again, the water could freeze and split the pipes.
Hose Off Your Air Conditioner
If you didn't clean leaves and pollen from your air conditioner in the fall, now is the time to do so. You can easily get debris off of your unit by spraying it with a garden hose. The Family Handyman recommends aiming the hose up in order to get anything that's stuck on the underside of the air conditioner's top.
As long as the weather warms up for one day, you can still hose off your air conditioner. It's alright if temperatures drop below 32°F on the next day, because the water from the hose won't get inside the unit's pipes. Even if the water freezes, it won't split any pipes.
Cover Exposed Coils and Pipes
Any coils and pipes that connect your air conditioner to your home should be covered. This will both protect them from rain, sleet and snow, and provide some insulation for them. You can find foam pipe covers at hardware stores for only a few dollars. These covers have a slit down one side that makes putting them on pipes easy.
Partially Cover Your Air Conditioner
Once all other preparations have been completed, you should cover your air conditioner itself. This protects the unit from rain, freezing rain, sleet and snow, which can rust the unit, and from hail, which can dent the unit.
You should only partially cover your air conditioner, though. Completely covering it reduces the airflow around the unit, which lets the moisture in the air surrounding it increase. If too much moisture collects around the unit, mold and mildew may grow. If you cover the entire unit, you may not only need to call an AC service company for a tune-up in the spring, but you might also need to call a mold removal service.
Partially covering your air conditioner will provide protection against the worst weather while allowing for enough air movement. To partially cover your unit, simply put a piece of plywood on top of it. This will keep most rain, snow and sleet from seeping down into the unit, and it will guard against hail damage. At the same time, just using one piece of plywood will also let air circulate through the unit so that moisture levels don't get too high.
If you haven't already readied your air conditioner for winter, now is the time to do so. Take steps to winterize your unit, and you should only need a basic tune-up from an AC service company come spring. If you continue to neglect your air conditioner this winter, however, you may also have to deal with broken pipes, rust, or mold or mildew when temperatures warm up.
For more information and tips, contact local HVAC contractors and AC servicing companies, like Enright and Sons.