Labor Day marks the unofficial end of summer, and temperatures are already beginning to cool off here in the Atlanta area. Now is the time of year to watch football, go apple-picking, and prepare your home for winter. Our last article discussed getting your house’s heating system ready for the cold months, and now we will cover another important topic: properly removing your window air conditioning units and storing them for the winter.
Why You Should Remove Your Window Air Conditioner During Before Winter
Every year, millions of Americans leave air conditioners in their windows during the cold winter months. It may seem like the most efficient thing to do. It won’t cause any problems, right? Wrong! If you live in an area that experiences any amount of ice, sleet, freezing rain, snow or cold winds during the winter, leaving your air conditioner exposed to these elements can be hazardous for the unit. You may even damage it beyond repair. At the very least, if water were to freeze on the coils, it could severely hinder your air conditioner’s energy efficiency.
Not only does leaving the air conditioner unit in the window put it at risk of damage, it can also affect the indoor temperature of your house. That’s because the gaps that an air conditioner leaves in your window allows warm air to escape to the outdoors, and consequently opens an entryway for the frigid outside air to come inside your home. Any kind of heat produced by your furnace goes out the window…literally.
Obviously, you may not be thinking about staying cool right now, but when hot temperatures return to Georgia next summer, you will….and you’re going to want your AC unit to be in tip-top operating condition. In order to have a summer-ready unit, you need to properly store your AC unit this winter. How exactly should that be done? We recommend following these steps:
Step 1: Remove the AC unit.
First, unplug your unit from the wall. Before you physically remove the unit from the window, peel off any tape that may have been used as a seal. Place a dry bath or beach towel underneath the window to catch any water that may leak from the unit as you remove it (this is likely to happen if the AC unit has recently been used). Carefully open the window and unscrew the unit from the window frame. Lift the air conditioner off the sill and slowly lower it onto the towel. If the unit is heavy, ask a friend or family member to assist you so you don’t drop the unit or worse yet, hurt your back.
Once the AC unit is out, it’s a good idea to place weather stripping along the outside window edges. This will help prevent cold air from entering your house along the border of where your air conditioner normally sits.
Step 2: Clean your AC unit—inside and out.
Before the unit is put in storage, we recommend cleaning it. Use a sponge or wash cloth and a mixture of one part warm and one part vinegar to scrub any dirt or grease off the outside of the AC unit. This may take some elbow grease to remove all the crud. Then, rinse the outside of the unit with water to remove any remaining dirt or lingering vinegar mixture. Let the unit air dry; if any moisture is present and you store the unit in a confined space, that is it ideal breeding ground for mold and mildew.
Be sure to clean the inside and back of the machine as well. This can be done by vacuuming the fins thoroughly with your vacuum cleaner’s brush attachment. You can also clean out the fins using an old toothbrush.
Step 3: Clean or replace the filter.
This is an ideal time to replace or clean your air conditioner’s air filter. Doing so will ensure your unit will be ready for next year’s cooling season. After you’ve removed the filter, use a soft brush to clean it with warm, soapy water, and then rinse it. Then set out the filter on your counter top to allow it to air dry. Once it’s dry, place the clean filter back in the air conditioner.
If your filter has seen its better days, you should replace it rather than try to clean it. Do a visual inspection of the filter after you’ve removed it. If it’s one of the standard, non-pleated, mesh filters, you should be able to see through the mesh. If it’s one of the more expensive, pleated filters, any dirt will be visibly seen. In either case, if the filter is blocked to the point that you can’t see through it, that means the airflow is restricted and the filter should be discarded.
Step 4: Place the unit in its original box.
Ideally, it’s best to store your air conditioner in its original box. This will help preserve the unit’s physical appearance. If you no longer have the box, use a tarp, sheet, or large, heavy-duty trash bag to protect the machine while it sits in storage for the next six to eight months.
Carefully place the unit into the box or trash bag, or wrap the enclosure material around the unit. Be gentle, as boxes and garbage bags can easily tear. Once it’s in the box, keep the box facing up. If you’re putting the unit in some other enclosure, be sure to keep the air conditioner in an upright position. If you store the air conditioner on its back or side, you could damage the compressor, which could lead to expensive repairs. Always keeping the unit in an upright position will allow the oil to resettle.
Step 5: Store the unit somewhere warm, dry and safe.
Find a warm, dry, clean and unobtrusive location to store your AC unit for the winter. Good options are the attic, dry basement, closet or utility room. Storing the unit in an outside storage unit or garage is not recommended, since small animals and insects may seek shelter inside of your AC unit, bringing debris and germs with them and leaving behind their feces. Rodents may chew on wiring, causing damage.
Do not store the unit in direct sunlight, or in a part of your home that experiences long periods of freezing temperatures, occasional moisture or excessive heat. Prolonged exposure to sunlight may cause the plastic housing to become discolored. Storing the unit somewhere that experiences dampness can lead to mold and mildew growth. If you store the unit in your basement and the basement sometimes floods, place the AC unit on an elevated platform to prevent exposure to water.
If you have any questions about storing your air conditioning unit, give us a call or fill out our contact form on our website. Assured Comfort is metro Atlanta’s leader in heating, air conditioning, and air quality services. Customers love our free estimates, fast service, and quality workmanship. Winter or summer, day or night, we’re always happy to help!