Your HVAC unit—also called an outdoor or central air conditioner—keeps your home dry and cool during hot, humid months. As the warm summer days fade to chilly fall weather, it’s time to winterize the HVAC unit to safeguard against snow and ice. Winterizing your central air conditioner also prevents rust damage and keeps critters from nesting inside mechanical parts.

Winterization of your HVAC unit is a straightforward do-it-yourself home improvement project. It takes just a few minutes of your time to complete. By following these simple steps, you can help keep your central air conditioning unit clean and in top working condition for summers to come.

The best time to prep your HVAC unit is early fall, just before you close the windows and turn on the heat. Watch the weather and pick a sunny day when your outdoor air conditioner can air dry completely. If today is the day to prep your AC, put on your work gloves and let’s get to it…

Here’s a list of what’s needed to winterize your HVAC unit: a garden hose, a clean rag, tubular foam or rubber pipe insulation, tees and elbows, and an outdoor air conditioning unit cover.

  1. Remove leaves, twigs and grass clippings. Use a garden hose to rinse the outdoor air conditioner, removing droppings, bugs, dirt and dust. Allow the HVAC unit to dry completely.
  2. Locate the electrical circuit. It usually has a plastic or metal lid. Remove the lid and flip the switch to cut power supply. This prevents the unit from turning on during a warm winter day, which keep water out of the unit that could freeze overnight and damage your HVAC unit.
  3. Install tubular foam or rubber pipe insulation with tees and elbows around pipes to protect against freezing. Cut the foam to fit by length and diameter of the pipe. Place tees and elbows first. Frost King foam pipe insulation is self-adhesive, making it easy to install.
  4. Cover the HVAC unit with a waterproof air conditioner cover. Our covers are made to fit outdoor air conditioners, but some DIY homeowners prefer to use bungee cords, vinyl tie-downs and even plywood+a brick to further secure the cover and protect the unit.
  5. Throughout winter, be sure to remove snow, ice and debris from the top of your HVAC unit. Adjust the cover to keep in place. Plus do what you can to remove dead leaves, small branches and any hibernating animals from underneath your outdoor air conditioning unit.

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