How to Protect Your Central Air Conditioning System in the Winter

After enduring a long summer pumping cold air through your home, your central air conditioning system is finally enjoying a much needed respite this fall. Out of use shouldn't mean out of mind, however – there are some important steps you should take to protect your AC unit over the winter so you know it will be ready to go when the weather warms up again. Read on to learn what you need to know about keeping your central air conditioning system safe during the cold winter months.

Built to Beat the Cold

Central air conditioning systems are actually built to be able to survive exposure to tough weather, and some people find that their units work fine even if they don't take any protective measures at all. However, the outdoor components of the system can be damaged by debris, moisture build-up and repeated freeze-and-thaw cycles, so it is wise to take at least some action to keep the equipment safe.

The first thing you should do when you shut your central air conditioning system down for the winter is to turn off its power. This will save you some electricity lost to phantom loads – and also prevent you from accidentally turning the unit on during the winter, which could create a big problem if it starts cycling water through the system and that water freezes.

On the Dangers of Tarps

While the cold itself won't hurt your AC compressor, debris that accumulates over the season can. Before you stow the system for the winter, clean it up and remove any leaves or other gunk that has built up. From there, some people just cover the unit with a piece of plywood to keep icicles, branches, leaves and other things from falling in the top.

An air conditioner cover can also be a good idea, particularly for lowering the risk of damage to the metal from repeated freezing and thawing, but it comes with some caveats of its own. It's a very bad idea to just cover the central air conditioning system with any old tarp and leave it at that. For one thing, moisture can accumulate underneath some coverings. Furthermore, animals might find the tarp to be an attractive shelter and make themselves at home. The trick with AC covers is to get one that leaves a foot or more open space above the ground so air can still pass in and out – a cover specifically manufactured for your AC model is best.

Don't Blow Your Cover

Once you've covered your AC compressor for the winter, it's a good idea to check on it periodically to make sure the cover is still in place and to clear out any debris that has blown underneath. Other than that, you should be all set. If you need help securing your central air conditioning system from harsh winter weather, contact your local qualified HVAC technician today.