If a severe winter storm with heavy snow and possible ice is heading your way, you may worry that the adverse weather could affect your outdoor central air conditioning unit. While the unit is designed to withstand most weather conditions, there are some things you can do to make sure it stays protected during the storm.
1. Make Sure the Power to the Unit Is Switched Off
The first thing you should do when preparing your AC unit for a winter storm is to make sure the power feeding the unit is turned off. When doing so, do not simply turn the thermostat to the off position. Instead, turn off the main breaker that supplies the unit.
If you only turn off the unit at the thermostat, you risk turning it on when you go to adjust the heat settings. If this were to happen while the lines inside the unit are frozen, you run the risk of having one or more of them rupture as the unit tries to cycle it through the system. The only way to ensure that this does not happen is to turn off the breaker. Since the unit draws a lot of electricity, it should be on its own circuit, so turning it off should not affect any other room in your house.
2. Cover the AC Unit With a Tarp
Once the power to the unit is off, the next thing you can do is to cover the AC unit with a tarp. This will help keep the snow and ice from infiltrating the air conditioner through the vent holes. However, you do not want to completely cover the unit. If you cover the entire unit, moisture will not be able to escape, which will lead to a buildup of condensation. Then, if the temperatures were to go below freezing, the moisture inside the unit would freeze and possibly damage the compressor.
When you cover the unit, leave the bottom half uncovered. Since the compressor and fan are at the top of the unit, they will remain protected while allowing moisture to evaporate. Once winter is over, and you start thinking about turning on your air conditioning, make sure your unit was able to withstand the harsh conditions by having it checked out by a professional. Contact an air conditioning maintenance service to schedule an inspection so they can perform the required checks and ensure the unit is in proper working condition.