When to shut down your air conditioner for the season

Much like Christmas lights, many homeowners don’t know when it’s time to shut down their air conditioning system for the season. Even with the end of the hot summer days, some people delay shutting it down just incase they get hit with an unexpected hot fall day, but no one wants to have to wade through snow to put a cover on the outdoor unit.

Weather fluctuates from year to year, so there’s really no good day to mark on the calendar in advance.

Our recommendation is to link the task to some other change of seasons task you’re already doing. For example, when you put away your patio furniture, cover your swimming pool, untie your hammock, winterize your lawnmower or put your motorcycle battery on a trickle-charger.

Alternatively, you could wait for the first frost to hit. That’s a dead give-away that you won’t need to cool the house anytime soon. If you find yourself turning the heat on and you haven’t prepared your cooling system for the season yet, it’s time to get on it right away.

Why it matters

Some units, not all but some, have an internal heating system for the cooling system’s condenser. This keeps some of the liquids in the machine from freezing during operation. Unfortunately, the warmth can make an attractive nest for field mice once the cold weather hits. During the summer, the field mice have plenty of warm places to dwell in, but once it gets cold out they get desperate and will enter a condenser unit.

Wilson Brothers technicians install an electric switch for customers in their electric panel marked “AC Condenser” that will stop all power from going to the condenser. Homeowners also need to go shut down their control panels for the season as well.

Go outside and shut it off, but unless that power switch is thrown, electricity will still get to the unit.

In addition, not enough people place outdoor covers on their condensers for the winter. The units are made to be outside year round and the refrigeration oils and other liquids can safely be left inside, but a cover is still needed to protect it from direct contact with ice and snow.

Use only true factory-made covers for your specific outdoor unit. Some people try to make their own covers with blue tarps and bungee cords. While that does create a barrier for the elements, it lacks the ventilation that the proper covers have. The tarps will trap air inside and create a small habitat with trapped moisture inside. The condensation will pit and corrode the electric contractors and damage the unit.

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