Once cooler weather starts settling in, your thoughts are probably focused on turning off the air conditioner and firing up the furnace. However, you should do more for your A/C unit than simply cutting the power. Below are a couple of tips for getting your central air conditioning unit prepared for its winter shutdown.
1. Change or Clean the Air Filter
When you are shutting down the air conditioner for the winter, you probably feel that changing the air filter is not necessary, as the unit will not be running at all. You may believe that it would be best to just change or clean the filter before you start it up again in the spring.
However, depending on the type of filter your unit is using, changing or cleaning the air filter is important for the health of your air conditioning system. If an old filter is left inside of the unit over winter, the already present dirt, dust, bacteria, and mold spores will be exposed to changes in temperature and moisture.
If you leave the filter in, the germs and mold will breed and grow, spreading throughout the unit. Then, even if you change the filter before you run it again, you will still end up blowing these unhealthy particles throughout your house. It is better to have a clean filter to prevent this from happening, and then change it again in the spring just to make sure.
2. Cover the Unit to Protect It
Although your air conditioner sits outside, it can still be subjected to damage caused by freezing temperatures and wintry precipitation. Because of this, after you change the filter, you should cover the top of the unit with thick plastic and keep it in place with boards or rocks.
However, do not cover the entire unit, as doing so will trap moisture underneath the plastic and create excessive condensation. If this moisture spreads to the interior of the unit and freezes, it can damage the compressor or motor. Cover only as much as the top half of the unit to keep this from happening.
Along with using the tips above, you should also consider having the unit checked out by a professional to make sure that any issues are taken care of and that your A/C system will be ready for use the following spring. Contact an HVAC contractor who offers air conditioning maintenance services to schedule a time for them to inspect the unit as well as perform any additional maintenance tasks.