How to Protect Your HVAC Unit from Ice and Snow

protect hvac unit from iceEvery year, hundreds of home and business owners endure bitter cold while they wait for their air conditioning and heating system to be repaired. Ignoring the threat posed by harsh winter conditions can mean a winter full of discomfort and expense.

In this short post, learn how you can greatly offset any risks by protecting your HVAC unit against winter weather in advance.

Identifying Your System’s Unique Risks

From outside units buried in snowy piles to condensers skewered by long,strong icicles, it can be difficult to predict in advance what surprises this year’s winter season may have in store.

Protecting your system starts with understanding what type of system you have, where the relevant components are located and what types of risks could impact exposed areas. Here is a list of basic unit types to help you identify yours:

Window a/c and heating units. These typically sit in the frame of a window, with the coils exposed to the outside air.

Baseboard heaters. Baseboard heaters are the least likely to be impacted by winter because all relevant components are typically located indoors.

Central units. Created to cool/heat larger spaces, a central HVAC unit typically houses the condenser outdoors and other components indoors.

Essential Precautions to Take

As soon as you hear about dropping temperatures or a winter storm moving into your area, it is time to act to protect your system from the elements. Here is a list of what to do:

Clear away all debris.
First, clear out any debris that has gathered around or on top of your unit.

Cover your unit.
What you do to cover your unit will depend on where the unit is located. But you must ensure the air can continue to circulate nearest your unit or you face a fire hazard or worse.

– Build a small roof over the unit that extends out from the side of your house or office (preferably the roof should be constructed out of wood or another hardy material that can take the snow’s weight).

– Erect a canopy to cover your unit. Here, use breathable burlap or other breathable material, NOT plastic!

– Construct an entire freestanding shelter around your unit.

– A final option is to install taller plants or shrubs around your unit. This will only work if your unit is already protected from above in some other way.

Cover All Pipes
This is an important measure to take in the event your unit is impacted despite your best efforts otherwise. It protects your pipes against bursting due to extreme cold should your unit cease working.

Ongoing Protective Work

In addition to preparing some advance protection for your system, you will also need to perform ongoing maintenance throughout the year and especially during the harsh winter season. This maintenance should include:

– Immediately clearing away any accumulated debris.
– Promptly shoveling snow off and away from the unit.
– Removing icicles as needed.
– Ensuring dripping water (very common as ice and snow melts) is diverted away from your unit.
– As the elements permit, cleaning the coils and exterior of your unit type to ensure all parts are unharmed and unimpeded.

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