We get it…outdoor air conditioning condensers are, well, not the most attractive things in the world (although I’m sure many of our techs would beg to differ). They’re big and bulky, taking up valuable space in your yard, and can sometimes bring down the curb appeal of your home. So when homeowners want to hide these unsightly but necessary pieces of equipment, we totally understand. However, when you are landscaping around your condenser unit, there are a few things you should keep in mind.
Give the A/C unit some breathing room. We discussed this in our post, Clever Ways to Cover Your Air Conditioning Unit – when using fencing or other construction materials to cover your condenser, make sure there is at least 2’ of space surrounding the unit. The 2’ rule should apply to plants as well – any type of plant you opt to use to hide the condenser should leave plenty of space for air to flow freely around the unit, as well as allow a technician easy access in the event that a repair or a replacement is necessary.
Cover the ground around the unit. Wind and rain can cause sand and dirt to get into your condenser, leaving it dirty and creating the potential for clogs. Before you start your landscaping project, cover the space around the unit with mulch, gravel, or rocks. This will help to prevent debris from getting into the unit during bad weather.
Think about severe weather. If your home is new construction, you likely had a conversation about where to put the condenser in the first place – hopefully that conversation took into account severe weather conditions. If so, the condenser is likely shielded from the worst of the winds during a storm. If your home is older, it’s possible that this conversation didn’t happen, and that the unit is open to strong winds and flying debris. If this is the case, take into consideration what weather conditions might be like before deciding on a landscaping plan. You may benefit more from a fence or a portable solution than from trees that could potentially fall and cause damage.
Shading your A/C unit is a good idea. Keeping the condenser itself cooler means that it won’t have to work as hard to cool the air in your home. If your condenser is located in a shady spot already, perfect! If not, you may want to think about adding plants that are tall enough to shade your system.
Watch for foliage fallout. Shade is great, but you may want to be selective with your plant choices. Plants that do a lot of shedding, either of leaves, berries, or fruit may pose some problems, as all of the stuff falling from the plants could cause a clogging issue with the condenser. Does that mean you can use plants that shed leaves, berries or fruit? No, but you’ll definitely need to remember to clear off and around the condenser unit on a regular basis. We recommend evergreen shrubs and trees for the purpose of hiding an unsightly air conditioner year-round.
Think big. Large pots or planters may be your friend when hiding an unsightly air conditioner. Because they are portable, large pots or planters make a great option for hiding a condenser unit. They can be moved when work needs to be done, and you aren’t necessarily stuck with the same plants year after year in this scenario. We loved the idea of planting ornamental grass in large pots to create a screen – it’s perfect.
Vines are not your friend. Unless you are committed to high levels of maintenance, we don’t recommend that you use vines to conceal an A/C unit. A lot of vines can get out of control quickly, and they can cause some big maintenance issues if they begin to grow on the unit itself. It’s not impossible to create a vine solution using a trellis, it just requires a very watchful eye.
Be gentle during maintenance. Be careful when doing yard maintenance – landscaping tools like trimmers and mowers can cause damage to your condenser. That 2’ rule should help to keep your lawn equipment away from the condenser, but if you have to do some extra trimming, make sure you aren’t putting the condenser itself in any danger. It might be a maintenance job that requires some old-fashioned hand tools and muscle power to complete.