Air conditioning season has arrived here in Birmingham! The warm weather we enjoy for most of the year is fantastic, as long as we have working air conditioning to retreat to during the hottest parts of the day. No one wants to deal with a broken down HVAC system when temperatures are in the 90s, so preventative measures to keep your system up and running are a must. That goes double for the outdoor components of your air conditioner.
The indoor components of your HVAC system are protected from severe weather, and the rugged conditions faced outdoors. Think about it – your condenser unit deals with rain, severe weather, dirt, plants and animals all the time. Being exposed to the elements all day every day can cause maintenance issues if homeowners aren’t careful.
These are the top 6 outdoor threats to be vigilant of when taking care of your air conditioner. Regular inspection and maintenance help to protect your outdoor system and keep these issues at bay.
When plants are left to grow wild around a condenser unit, problems can quickly arise. The plants themselves can cause clogs thanks to falling leaves, branches, berries, and flowers, but they also create an environment that allows dirt to build up in your unit. Once you have clogs, your air conditioner begins to work less efficiently, and in some cases, it may not function at all.
Make sure that your compressor unit has at least 2-3 feet of clear space around it at all times. The extra space keeps debris from falling into the system and allows for unrestricted airflow, which is essential to a healthy air conditioner.
When we say “water,” we don’t mean just your average rain. Outdoor units are made to resist problems from normal conditions such as rain and direct sunlight, but it is possible to have too much of a good thing. During heavy rains, pooling can be a problem. When water stands around the base of the compressor unit, there is the chance that it will bring with it dirt and debris that you don’t want inside your air conditioner. If water stands for too long or too often, you can also run the risk of mildew and mold growth which puts the air quality in your home at risk.
The best way to avoid problems from water is to provide good drainage around your air conditioning unit. Make sure gutters don’t drain next to the system, and that water can flow away from the unit instead of pooling.
Ground plants and shrubs aren’t the only garden inhabitants that you need to be wary of when it comes to air conditioner maintenance. Trees create problems as well. During intense storms limbs can become projectiles, falling onto homes, cars, and even your air conditioner. Like smaller plants, however, trees also pose an issue due to leaves, berries, and flowers that can fall into the compressor unit and cause clogging issues.
When out in your garden, take a look at any trees near your air conditioner. Are they healthy? Remove dead branches before a major storm turns them into a battering ram. If any debris from the tree could pose a clogging risk, make sure to trim back areas near the air conditioning unit to prevent the buildup of smaller branches or leaves.
Some time ago we wrote a blog post all about animal invasions into your HVAC system. When it comes to the compressor unit, the biggest threats come from snakes and insects. Usually, these animals decide to set up home in or around your system in the winter, when the compressor isn’t in regular use, and there is no threat of danger from the motor. But come summer, you can be in for a nasty surprise when you turn on your air conditioner for the first time.
Before you start your air conditioner for the first time, it’s always a good idea to take a look at the compressor unit to double check that no critters are living in there. As the season progresses, make sure that insects aren’t setting up house near the unit. Your air conditioner acts as an entryway into your home, and you want to ensure these crawly critters stay outside where they belong.
Alabama is no stranger to severe weather and thunderstorms. We all know that lightning can cause damage to homes, and that includes your HVAC system. Just like any other electrical equipment in your home, HVAC systems are at risk from damage due to a direct lightning strike or a power surge.
Preventing damage is as easy as installing a lightning rod system to direct electricity away from your home in a way that is safe for your electrical appliances. We also think it’s a smart idea to turn off your HVAC system during severe weather, just to be on the safe side.
Dirt – it’s everywhere. For outdoor equipment, there’s no escaping it. Your compressor unit is regularly exposed to dust and dirt blown in by the wind. That fine material can build up over time, causing its own clogs, but the bigger issue is when your coils get dirty. Dirty coils mean a less efficient air conditioner, which means a much higher energy bill for you.
The best way to prevent problems from dirt is to regularly inspect your condenser unit, or let us do it for you. A bi-annual check in spring and fall will help to catch a dirty system, and our techs know how to clean the condenser coils quickly, leaving you free to work on other projects.