When winter arrives, you will naturally move from using your air conditioner every day to warming your house with your heater. As you make the change from cool air to warm inside your home, you will need to take steps to protect your air conditioner from winter weather. So “yes” is the answer to the question in the title, you should definitely winterize your home’s heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system. These winterizing tips for an HVAC system below will ensure that the expensive components will perform well for longer.
Change Your Air Filter
Changing the air filter is a basic and often-overlooked step in the HVAC maintenance process. Some systems are designed to work for months without the filter being replaced so homeowners often forget to do it. Usually, if you fail to replace a clogged filter, the unit will have to work harder to move air through it. Along with causing stress to the system and making it more prone to breaking down, a dirty filter can also drive up your utility costs. A clean filter will also help to keep your home’s indoor air clean during the cold season when your family will be spending a lot of time indoors. Replacing the filter is one of the least costly steps you can take to keep your HVAC system functioning as it should over the winter.
Keep Registers Clean
Dirt will come into your home all winter long through open doors and windows. The result is that your registers will have dust and other pollutants built up in their openings. These pollutants will get into the air you breathe unless you regularly wipe your registers down. Not only will clean registers improve air quality, but they will also give you more powerful airflow.
Find Out If you Have a Central Air or a Heat Pump
You will have to take some steps to winterize the outdoor component of your HVAC system called the condenser. However, you will want to find out exactly what kind of unit you have before you do anything. If your home has a heat pump that will be used for heating during the winter, you want to leave that outdoor part uncovered and on instead of covering it and switching it off for the winter. Get the model number and search for it online to find out which kind of unit you have.
Turn the Air Conditioner’s Power Off
If you are using your heater all winter long, go ahead and turn the power off to your central air conditioner. Keeping the power off prevents power surges that can damage your condenser and shorten its usable life. Turning it off also keeps it from drawing power, which it might even though it is not in use. If you are trying to keep your utility bills as low as possible, this is the step you should take. If the air conditioner has a dedicated circuit, just flip the breaker off; alternatively, you can use the disconnect box by your outdoor unit to cut the power. Come spring you can turn it back on but you will want to turn the breaker on about 24 hours before you switch the central air on.
Cover the Condenser
The condenser is the part of your HVAC system that you have outdoors. Depending on how your system is configured, your condenser unit might be situated to the side of your house or in your backyard. Some properties even have it on the roof. Wherever it is, it’s a good idea to cover it over the winter, especially if you have trees overhanging your property. Covering is controversial because these units are built to withstand the elements; however, HVAC system manufacturers often suggest that you keep the tops of these units covered even if you avoid covering them up all the way. Complete coverage — which would include the sides of the unit — can result in trapped moisture and may even trap vermin within the unit in some cases. Even though the units are designed to handle moisture, too much when the unit is not in use may not be a good thing. Trapped water can cause mold growth or rust. Winter is when your condenser is most likely to be damaged by falling debris. A covering protects your condenser from dangers in the form of limbs from overhanging trees, ice, and other potentially destructive elements. Before you use the unit again, make sure to remove the covering. Operating your central air conditioner with something covering the condenser can cause serious damage to the unit from overheating.
If you need to have the condenser serviced at some point, you should ensure that it can be accessed easily. Try to keep the space around the unit clear. There should be at least three feet of clearance surrounding the condenser. Do not plant bushes or other plants in that three-foot space. Keeping the area free of obstructions can also keep it clean and protected from potential causes of clogging.
Regularly Clean Your Condenser
You can remove twigs and other detritus by hand from your condenser or suck them out with a shop vac. Wash dirt, leaves, and other debris away with a garden hose. Of course, you will want to shut the power off at the breaker or disconnect the box before you go spraying water into your HVAC system. If you have the time, take the top cover off before you wash or vacuum the condenser. Allow the unit to dry completely before reinstalling the cover.
Repair Refrigerant Pipe Insulation
The pipe that carries your air conditioner’s refrigerant is key to the unit’s function. The pipe is what takes the refrigerant in and out of your home. To perform its function, it must be well insulated since this will help to keep the refrigerant at the right temperature. The insulation will also help to keep the pipe from corroding and breaking if temperatures fall quickly. You can either buy and install pipe covers yourself or get an HVAC technician from delawarehatandair.com to inspect and replace the insulation where it’s not doing its job. Winter weather can cause problems with pipes, so it is important to make sure your air conditioner’s refrigerant pipe is in good shape before the temperatures start falling.
Pay Attention to Your Condenser Unit During the Winter
Even after your condenser has been properly protected from the cold, you still need to keep an eye on it. Go outside and look at it every few weeks over the winter to make sure that it’s still in good shape. If you have covered it, remove the cover to make sure that there aren’t any rodents living inside. Don’t allow snow and ice to just sit on the unit, try to brush it off when you can.
Make Your Gutter is in Good Shape
If the gutter over your central air conditioner’s condenser unit is leaking, it can cause problems. Have your gutter serviced to prevent damage to the condenser unit itself or the area around it. If ice dams are a frequent problem, your gutter may be at fault. Ice dams in your gutter may be caused by poor sloping, which causes water to freeze in the gutter and block it. The water might then overflow and damage your condenser unit.
Protect Your Window Units
Like central air condensers, window air conditioner units will need protection during the winter. Your options are to cover or remove them entirely and bring them inside, which is the safer choice. If they are left in place, not only can window air units be damaged by the cold, they can cause window air leaks. An air leak will cause you to spend more money heating your home.
Get Your Heating System Inspected
Along with taking the right steps to protect your air conditioner, make sure to schedule professional inspections for your heating system since your heater will be keeping your home comfortable for the duration of the winter months.
If you handle the winterization of your HVAC system well, the unit should remain functioning for the entirety of its expected usable lifespan. It should also be ready to use when the temperatures go up again. If there is any step in the winterizing process that you can’t handle yourself, contact us at Delaware Heat and Air and we will send out one of our capable technicians.