Other than turning the unit off for the winter (which not only saves energy but also prevents damage that can occur if the unit runs in cool weather), you may be wondering if there are certain steps you should take in the fall to help your AC unit survive the winter in good condition. Here are three ways to help ensure that your unit stays fully operational over the winter and doesn't require unexpected repairs before you can use it in the spring.
Cleaning debris out from the top, inside, and fins of the unit can prevent damage such as bent fins and broken fan blades. Fallen leaves and small branches are often a culprit in this area. After removing debris, hose the unit down to reduce grime. You should also clean out the area around your unit by removing weeds, fallen leaves, and other nearby vegetation that might encourage animals to take shelter there. Animals can cause severe damage to your unit over the course of the winter months.
Doing a visual check of your AC unit's visible components can help you get a good estimate of what condition the unit is in going into the winter. Unless you're a professional, you'll probably only be able to check basic things like the condition of the fan blades and fins. If you're serious about your AC maintenance, you may choose to bring in a professional for a fall maintenance checkup at this point. Another way checks can help your unit get through the winter is if you schedule a visual inspection every week or two. That just means you'll come out and take a look inside to make sure debris hasn't damaged anything and no rodents have taken up residence.
Some homeowners swear by a simple piece of plywood set on top of the unit and held in place with a brick or cinder block. (This method could present a problem if you live in an extremely windy area and leave any overhang at all.) Others use vinyl covers designed to protect units from winter weather. But whatever you do, don't use a tarp. Tarps are not reliably waterproof, don't allow room at the bottom for the unit to breathe, and as if that's not enough they look tacky too. Whatever you decide to use, make sure that it both has a waterproof top and allows ventilation so moisture doesn't become trapped inside the unit and allow mold to form.
These three methods will help you prepare your unit for the winter ahead. Make your choices well and your AC unit will continue to serve you for many summers to come. Contact a local contractor, like Bob Bergen Heating & Air Conditioning, for help.