Winter is just around the corner, and it won’t be that long before it’s time to shut off your air conditioning and turn on your heating system. As such, now is a good time to winterize your entire HVAC system to ensure your AC unit doesn’t suffer damage over the winter and also to make sure your heating system is functioning effectively. This guide will tell you everything you need to know about winterizing your HVAC system, including what it involves and why it’s important.

Shut Off the Power of Your Air Conditioner

When the weather starts cooling off in the fall and you no longer need to run your air conditioning, you should always shut off the power to the outdoor AC unit, if possible. Shutting off the power is important for ensuring you don’t accidentally turn the AC on during the winter. If an AC unit turns on and runs anytime the outdoor temperature is below 60 degrees, it can quickly freeze up and potentially suffer serious damage. As such, it’s always a good idea to shut off the power to the unit, just to be safe.

Newer AC units typically have a power shut-off located outside the home on the exterior wall just next to the unit, and all you need to do is open the cover and flip the switch to the Off position. If there isn’t a switch outside, you won’t be able to shut off the power to the unit. In this case, the only way to shut off the power would be to flip the circuit breaker on the main electrical panel, which would likely also shut off the power to your heating system, since both the AC and heating system are usually on the same circuit. It’s not that big of an issue if you can’t shut off the power, but you need to be careful that you do not accidentally switch your thermostat from heating to cooling as this could cause your AC to run during chillier weather.

Clean Out Any Debris

After shutting off the power, you should then clean any leaves, sticks and debris away from the sides of the AC unit. It’s also a good idea to clean out the inside of the unit, but this is something you will need an HVAC technician to do. The only way to access the inside of the unit is to remove the fan assembly, and you could easily damage the unit if you try to do this yourself.

Cleaning out all the leaves and debris is important for preventing rust and corrosion. AC units are weatherproof, meaning that rain and snow typically won’t cause any damage as long as sufficient air can flow through the unit. If the sides of the unit are clogged with leaves, air won’t be able to flow through the unit properly. Without proper airflow, condensation will start to build up inside the unit and potentially lead to rust forming on its components. Any leaves and debris inside the unit will also hold onto moisture and, again, increase the chances of corrosion.

Cover the Top of the AC Unit

Covering your AC unit for winter isn’t entirely necessary, but it’s definitely not a bad idea either. Covering the unit helps to prevent leaves and debris from getting inside during the fall and winter, which is important for reducing the risk of rust and corrosion. Covering the top of the unit will also prevent icicles from possibly crashing down into the unit and causing damage. When covering the unit, it is important that you do it properly to ensure it still receives adequate airflow so condensation doesn’t form inside it.

There are specially designed AC covers that are made of breathable material and will block out debris without trapping moisture inside. You can also just cut a piece of plywood to fit the top of the unit, but you need to make sure that you adequately weigh the wood down. If not, the wind could lift it off and cause it to crash down onto the unit or the refrigerant lines and potentially cause major damage.

What you shouldn’t ever do is cover the unit with plastic since this will definitely prevent air from being able to flow through it and trap moisture. You can cover the unit with a tarp and secure it with rope or bungee cords, but the tarp should never drape more than a few inches over the sides so that it doesn’t block the airflow.

If you do plan on covering the unit, you can also just have the technician do this after they’ve cleaned out all the debris. This way, you can ensure that it is covered properly so you can avoid condensation and corrosion issues.

Make Sure the Copper Refrigerant Lines Are Fully Insulated

It is also important that the copper refrigerant lines that run from the AC unit into the home are fully insulated. Insulating the lines is important as, otherwise, condensation can form and potentially cause the lines to freeze. Insulation also protects the lines from damage and corrosion caused by the sun and general weathering. If the insulation around the lines is starting to degrade, you should have a technician re-insulate them when they’re cleaning and winterizing your AC unit.

Clear Away Snow and Ice

It’s also a good idea to continually clear snow and ice from around your AC unit throughout the winter. If lots of snow drifts up around the unit, it will block the airflow and increase the chances of the components getting rusty. Clearing snow and ice is especially important if you have a heat pump that you use for heating during the winter. If you don’t clear a path all the way around your heat pump, there’s a high chance it will freeze up and need to defrost much more often.

Schedule a Heating Tune-Up

Winterizing your AC system is important, but you should also have a heating tune-up performed at the same time to ensure your heating system is ready to go when winter arrives. A tune-up or maintenance service involves inspecting the entire heating system to make sure it doesn’t need any repairs and will work safely. Two of the most important things when inspecting a gas furnace are making sure the heat exchanger isn’t cracked and checking that the exhaust flue isn’t clogged so that the combustion fumes are vented outside properly. If the furnace isn’t venting properly or the heat exchanger is cracked, it could lead to carbon monoxide escaping and leaking out into the home.

When servicing a furnace, the technician will also fully clean all of the components, including the blower, gas burners and flame sensor. Cleaning the unit is important for ensuring it works effectively and runs whenever it should. Having your furnace serviced every fall is also the easiest way to keep your heating bills lower, and it will also help to prevent your furnace from suddenly breaking down during winter. Annual maintenance is also important for protecting the life of your heating system and helping your furnace last as long as possible.

If you’re looking to have your HVAC system winterized and serviced, Fly Plumbing & HVAC is ready to help. Our certified technicians specialize in heating and air conditioning maintenance and can service and repair any make and model furnace, air conditioner or heat pump. Our team can also assist if you need any HVAC installation or plumbing services in Wheeling or the surrounding areas. Contact us today for more information or to schedule a service call.

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