Your outdoor air conditioner was made to weather the sunny conditions of the spring and summer. But as temperatures begin to fall, your unit becomes vulnerable to freezing, impact damage, and clogs from seasonal debris.

Luckily, you can protect your unit through the winter until you need it again by taking the following seven steps.

1. Turn Off External Power
First, find the electrical circuit that powers your unit. The circuit is likely covered by a plastic or metal lid. Lift the lid and turn off the power switch.

This step prevents your unit from turning on until you power it back up. By turning off the external power, you prevent accidental startups on unseasonably warm days and reduce the risk of water getting into the unit and freezing there.

2. Wash Away Any Grime
Over the summer, your unit may gather grime and debris. Remove any larger debris, such as twigs and fallen leaves, by hand.

Then, clean the unit with a water hose using low water pressure. This step gets rid of bird droppings, dust, and other muck that can gum up your unit or even encourage corrosion during the winter months.
3. Let the Unit Dry Completely
Once you finish cleaning the unit, give it time to dry completely before taking any further steps. Placing insulation or a cover on the unit while it’s wet can lead to mildew and mold development over the winter.

4. Have the Unit Inspected

Once your unit is clean and dry, schedule a seasonal inspection. During this inspection, your HVAC technician can identify any existing problems and resolve them so the issues don’t have time to develop during the off-season.

If you have questions about your air conditioner model specifically, use this inspection as an opportunity to get your answers.

5. Insulate All Attachments

When you’re sure that the unit is ready for winter hibernation, begin protecting your unit by insulating all exposed exterior pipes that attach to the unit. Use cylindrical foam pipe covers to insulate each pipe from the cold.

You may wish to secure the pipe covers using duct tape or zip ties. This step simply ensures that the covers don’t fall off the pipes in high winds.

6. Cover the Unit

Decide whether or not you want to cover your unit completely. A high-quality waterproof cover can keep your unit dry, but it may also make your unit appealing to pests. A strong piece of plywood set on top of the unit minimizes damage from ice and snow but leaves the rest of the unit exposed.

Consider your climate and the recommendations of your HVAC contractor when deciding. If you often have snow pile up around the unit, opt for a full cover. If you’re more concerned about falling icicles, consider just a top cover.

7. Check the Unit Weekly

Once winter arrives, make weekly unit checks part of your household maintenance routine. During these checks, assess the condition and security of all insulating materials, including the cover if you decide to use one. Replace these safeguards if they become worn out or blow away.

Additionally, take this time to clear any obstructions around the unit or debris on top of the unit. Try to maintain at least 6 to 12 inches of clearance around your unit over the winter.


Take these steps to ensure your unit is intact and ready to run at the first spike in temperature next year.

To learn more about your air conditioning system, visit the Lakeside Heating & Air Conditioning Inc. central air page or speak with one of our experienced professionals today.