Keeping Your Outdoor Condenser Unit Safe from Weeds & Pests

Outdoor condenser unit next to a brick wall and plants

During the summer heat, homeowners need good air conditioning. There are easy steps you can take in order to keep your air conditioner running efficiently and reliably. Let's talk about your outdoor condenser unit.

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What does your outdoor condenser unit do?

The outside part of your air conditioner is commonly known as the "condenser unit." It is the big box (some are round) outside of your house. Its purpose is to take the heat that has been removed from your home and release it to the outside air. Keeping the condenser running smoothly lowers your energy bills and reduces the chances of a system breakdown. The key parts of your outdoor condenser unit include:

  • The compressor. The compressor pressurizes the refrigerant (a special fluid essential to the process), thereby raising its temperature.
  • Condenser coils and fan. Next, the refrigerant travels through your condenser coils. A fan cools the coils and releases the heat to the outside air.
  • Refrigerant lines. These lines connect your indoor and outdoor units, to cycle the refrigerant.

Keeping critters out

Whether they crawl, gnaw, slither or build nests, critters and pests can cause a problem with your air conditioning system. Mice and rats love small spaces. They can chew through refrigerant lines, wires and can even use duct material to build their nests. Snakes like to build nests in the ductwork. Sometimes they coil up inside the condenser and damage the components. Termites, ants, wasps, and similar pests can also cause a problem. Termites may be attracted to your home by the water produced by your air conditioning unit. Ant mounds and wasp nests may interfere with the operation of your unit.

Therefore, to maintain your system in good working order, it is important to prevent critters and nesting insects from accessing your air conditioning unit. These simple preventative measures can help:

  • Install mesh screens or coverings made for air vents and flue pipes to keep pests out.   
  • Use caulk or weatherstripping to seal cracks near windows and other spots where bugs may enter your air conditioning system.
  • Have a professional inspect your ductwork and repair cracked or loose ducts promptly. Sealing holes or cracks in your ducts is an easy and efficient way to control pests.
  • Keep the area around your condenser clear of bushes, weeds, and other vegetation that could attract or harbor rodents or snakes. Check for ant mounds or signs of rodents.
  • Watch out for standing water or unusual moisture around your condenser. Wet conditions are ideal for termites.

Landscaping around your condenser

Some people prefer to landscape around the condenser unit to block it from view. Others install shade plants around the condenser, theorizing that cooling the air around the unit is beneficial to it. However, it is important to landscape carefully, so that you do not restrict air flow around the condenser. A restricted air flow, as well as dirt and debris, may damage the condenser system. Before landscaping, consider these tips:

  • Create a shade canopy. If your condenser is sitting in the hot sun, adding some plants with sufficient height to make a shade canopy. It may reduce your unit's workload and energy usage.
  • Choose your plants carefully. Evergreen shrubs are a good choice because they won't drop leaves in the fall. If you are looking for a faster growing deciduous tree or bush, you may want to consider installing an air conditioner shield which protects the unit from dirt, leaves and weather elements. 
  • Allow for plant growth. When choosing your plants, consider what size they will be when fully mature. You should allow several feet on each side of the unit and make sure there is easy access for maintenance.
  • Trim regularly. When performing yard work, don't forget to trim all of the vegetation near your condenser unit and hose the exterior casing down. You may wish to install a cement block or gravel barrier around it to deter plant growth, etc.
  • Keep it clean. Dirt around the condenser creates dust and mud, which may collect on the fan blades and coil. Hose your exterior casing down as needed.

For professional air conditioner repairs, installation, or to schedule a preventative maintenance visit, contact American Air Cares.