The Great Outdoor Condenser: Protecting Your Stockton Air Conditioning Unit from Winter Weather


outdoor condenserWe sure wouldn’t want to sit outside all winter with no cover in the freezing cold and rain. But that’s exactly the situation that HVAC units are in this time of year. Between temperature changes, moisture, and debris, winter can be a problem if you’re not prepared. And one of the major components of the HVAC system sits outside your house–the outdoor HVAC unit (which is called the condenser). They’re built to be tough, but that doesn’t mean nothing can go wrong! So let’s all consider how we can make the lives of these units a little bit easier.

Icy Conditions

We’ve talked recently about ice on various parts of the HVAC system, but it bears repeating: ice on your outdoor unit is not a good sign, especially here in the valley where it doesn’t freeze very often. Cold temps may have an effect on internal processes, and the result could be a unit that forms ice on the outside–in fact, we’re willing to bet that’s the only time you’ll see ice on your unit. If it’s all frosted up but nothing else in your yard is, there’s something wrong with the outdoor condenser’s workings. For a more in-depth analysis of this issue, refer back to our ice blog post, but you should know that ice on the outdoor unit means something is definitely up, and you’ll need to have it checked out.

Water Leaks

It’s not uncommon for the condenser to produce a bit of moisture from time-to-time, and if the winter continues to be as wet as it has been it might be hard to tell if the condenser is producing any moisture at all! That said, if you come home to a large puddle by the unit, it’s usually a sign that you need it looked at. Just like ice on the unit, water leaks have many potential causes, and they range from the simple to the complex. It could be dirty filters or a blocked drain pipe–but it could also be a broken condensate pan or other issue stemming from age or damage.

Impact Damage

We saw a large branch come down last week and it got us thinking about the damage we’ve seen to condensers in winter from impacts. Wind and rain mean falling branches and other debris are a real hazard, and that’s certainly true for your outdoor condenser as well. We’ve seen large boughs smash into outdoor units, hail storms pound them mercilessly, and even one get struck by a car that was being worked on in the backyard! If your outdoor unit is struck by something, you may need to get it looked at–especially before you need the AC again. Damage may not be immediately apparent, but internal damage is possible even if it looks okay from the outside.[1.] These units are hardy, but not indestructible.

Cover Up Your Outdoor Condenser

Whether you’re worried about rain, hail, impact damage, or cold temperatures, a cover for your outdoor condenser units is an excellent way to mitigate damage. It will protect against moisture and debris, and provide another layer of protection between your unit and objects moving at speed. It’s not bulletproof armor, of course, but we can sure tell the difference between a covered unit and a non-covered one once we start working on it! A cover is a great piece of insurance against damage of all kinds. We often remind homeowners that covers are cheap, and that new condensers are not.

Time for Replacement?

All that said, sometimes unit replacement is the best option. Condenser units get old and they certainly have a hard life outdoors. One sign of an aging unit is frequent need for repairs (not just routine maintenance). Even if yours isn’t totally pulverized, there are a lot of reasons to invest in a new condenser–the money you’ll save on repairs and energy bills being just two!

The moral of our story today is that while your condenser is awesome, it’s not immortal or impervious to harm. Have it looked at before you turn on the AC next year–winter is the best time to do it. And consider buying a cover, they’re worth their weight in gold! And finally, while it can be expensive, upgrading to a new compressor has a lot of benefits and doesn’t have to be a chore. We hope that whatever your condenser needs, you’ll have us provide for it!