Can Environmental Factors Damage Your AC Unit?
Your condenser unit spends its life exposed to the elements, so it stands to reason that it should be relatively resistant to most environmental factors. In fact, these outdoor components are relatively robust. You don't need to do much to protect your condenser through even severe weather, including heat waves, heavy snow, and torrential downpours.
However, nothing is completely immune to environmental factors. Despite their durability, condensers still have a few notable vulnerabilities, and severe environmental conditions can damage or destroy the components contained within. Understanding how environmental factors affect your AC unit can help you recognize and repair problems as early as possible.
When SHOULDN'T You Worry?
Your condenser unit contains some of the most expensive equipment in your air conditioning system, so it's natural to want to protect it as much as possible. Still, people often focus on the wrong problems when worrying about their outdoor unit. For example, your condenser is fairly waterproof, so there's no need to protect it from even heavy rains.
Likewise, cold weather and snow won't impact your system. Although most air conditioners can't run in very cold conditions, there's no harm in leaving the unit exposed to snow and ice as long as it's turned off. Since modern AC units typically won't engage the compressor below a safe temperature, there's rarely concern about damage from the cold.
When SHOULD You Worry?
The environmental factors that can affect your outdoor unit are the ones that many people often ignore. These are the three conditions most likely to damage components on your condenser unit:
- Physical damage from debris
- Unstable foundations
- Rodent infestation
The first two conditions can potentially arise following severe weather. Blown debris can hit the condenser coils or even become lodged in the blower, preventing it from working or causing damage. Occasionally, debris may fall into the unit, damaging the compressor. Icicles may also be a concern during the winter if the unit is directly below an eave.
An unstable foundation is another potentially disastrous issue. Heavy rains and saturated ground can cause the pad beneath the condenser to shift, moving the unit away from being level. When this situation occurs, oil can drain away from the compressor, starving it of critical lubrication. A poorly lubricated compressor will overheat and quickly fail.
Finally, rodents are a common problem for outdoor units. They can be an issue nearly anywhere, but they're of particular concern if there are high weeds or similar cover nearby. Rodents can chew on wires or refrigerant plumbing, causing unusual electrical issues or other problems. Always be aware of any signs of nesting near your condenser unit.
What Should You Do?
The most important thing you can do is be aware of how the environment may affect your system. Watch for indications of debris damage, a tilting foundation, or nesting rodents. If you spot any of these issues, a repair visit from a trained HVAC technician may be in order. Dealing with the problem as soon as you notice it is the best way to prevent more severe damage to your home's AC system.
Contact an air conditioning repair service for more information.