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HVAC Winter Maintenance: How To Prepare Your HVAC for Winter Temperatures


The cold temperatures are fast approaching, and as a new homeowner, you want to ensure you’re properly preparing your HVAC for winter to avoid costly damages.

Heating and cooling systems require year-round maintenance to keep them operating smoothly and efficiently, including proper HVAC winter maintenance — but where do you even begin?

While some tasks require the help of an HVAC professional, some are easy to do on your own. As you start preparing your home for winter, consider some winter HVAC tips to help prevent costly damages that cold weather, ice, snow, or oxidation might cause.

Table of Contents

should you cove ac unit in winter

What Does HVAC Winter Maintenance Include?

Although HVAC units require year-round maintenance — and many of the procedures are the same — HVAC winter maintenance entails a few extra steps that are special for protecting your HVAC from brutal winter temperatures and elements. 

For example, with summer HVAC maintenance, you wouldn’t have to worry about covering your HVAC system or insulating the pipes with covers to ensure they don’t crack.

AAA Heating & Cooling provides both residential and commercial HVAC maintenance, installations, repairs, and more in the greater Portland area. Need help preparing your HVAC for winter? Contact us today.

hvac winter maintenance

6 HVAC Winter Maintenance Steps to Prepare Your HVAC for Winter

Do you live in an area that experiences extremely cold winters? Maybe your winters are a bit more mild, but you’re still looking to take extra caution to protect your HVAC unit (and your wallet) down the line. 

Consider these winter HVAC tips to help prepare your unit for colder months.

hvac winter tips

#1: Turn Off Your A/C Unit

This step is crucial because turning off your A/C unit prevents the risk of electrocution while maintenance is being performed. It also:

  • Keeps the unit from accidentally turning on during an unseasonably warm winter day
  • Keeps out water that could freeze and potentially damage the unit

First, locate the exterior power circuit box that is likely mounted to the side of your home. You’ll lift the cover to find the power switch (usually it’s red).

Flip the switch to the ‘off’ position and close the lid.

#2: Clean the A/C Unit

Cleaning your A/C unit prevents it from getting clogged during the winter months when snow, leaves, and debris are all piling up around it. This step also minimizes the chances of your unit breaking down in the spring and summer when it’s time to use it again. 

You can use a broom to sweep off and away leaves, twigs, and other debris on and around the A/C unit. Then, use a hose to wash off any extra dirt, dust, and animal droppings and allow the unit to dry completely. 

As winter progresses, work to keep your A/C unit clear of ice, snow, and debris to help keep it dry during the harsh winter months.

#3: Inspect the A/C Unit for Damage

Cracks and damage to the exterior of your HVAC unit might seem inevitable — with all of the elements outdoors, it’s bound to get a little beat up. Although this damage might seem minor to the naked eye, it could cause major problems in the future.

Look for cracks and rust in the casing, as well as leaks and other irregularities. You should also check that all seals are tight and not cracked. If you find any damage, contact a licensed HVAC contractor right away. 

AAA Heating & Cooling is a licensed HVAC contractor that can help assess any damage to your unit and prepare your HVAC for winter. 

#4: Cover the A/C Unit

Covering your unit helps protect it from physical damage during the long winter months. You can place a waterproof vinyl or plastic cover over your unit to:

  • Insulate it
  • Prevent cracks
  • Protect it from debris
  • Protect it from the elements

You might also consider securing your cover with bungee cords or ropes to prevent it from flying away during severe weather or high winds. 

This step is a simple and affordable way to save your HVAC unit from significant harm that could quickly become costly in the future.

#5: Add Extra Insulation

To help keep your HVAC system’s components from cracking and/or freezing, add extra insulation for protection. 

You can use foam pipe covers around the A/C unit’s exposed pipes and wiring, especially those that run into your home, to prevent damage that could require major repairs or an entire HVAC unit replacement. 

#6: Check on Your A/C Regularly

While year-round HVAC maintenance is important, you don’t want to set your A/C unit up for winter and completely forget about it during those crucial months.

Instead, continue to perform regular HVAC maintenance throughout the remainder of the fall and winter to ensure your unit continues to work properly.

We recommend performing these weekly tasks:

  • Sweep away leaves and debris.
  • Hose down the unit if needed.
  • Remove water, snow, and ice.
  • Ensure the unit is still properly covered.
  • Clear the cover of any weight that could potentially cause damage.

Should You Cover Your A/C Unit in the Winter?

The recommendation of covering your A/C unit could be controversial in the world of HVAC professionals, but at AAA Heating & Cooling, we recommend covering your unit to protect it from cracks, debris, and elements.

Some might argue that your system is built to withstand the winter and its elements and that covering your A/C unit with a full cover could lead to issues or mold, rust, or other problems.

If you tend to agree, you can cover the top of your unit with a piece of plywood to protect it from any heavy snowfalls, fallen icicles, and other elements, without fully covering your A/C unit.

How To Cover an Air Conditioner for Winter

If you choose to cover your A/C unit for the winter, don’t just grab anything you find in your home, shed, or garage and throw it on there. 

Choose a cover that has fabric that does not lock in moisture and allows your unit to breathe. You can check with your A/C unit’s manufacturer to see if there’s an all-weather protective cover designed specifically for your unit. 

You might choose to use a waterproof tarp or a different waterproof vinyl or plastic covering. Consider securing your cover of choice with bungee cords or rope to not only prevent it from blowing away in severe weather but keep animals from getting underneath to hibernate. 

how to keep outside ac unit from freezing in winter

How To Keep Your Outside A/C Unit From Freezing in the Winter

We’ve mentioned that a frozen air conditioner unit can cause major damage and require costly repairs (or the need for an entire A/C unit replacement) following the winter months.

Fortunately, you can help prevent your A/C unit from freezing in the winter by taking the following precautions:

  • Check for refrigerant leaks during your routine maintenance process – When an A/C unit attempts to operate with less refrigerant than intended, the drop in pressure can cause evaporator-coil temperatures to dip below freezing. This can cause nearby water vapor to freeze onto the surface of the coils.
  • Check and change your unit’s air filter – A clogged or dirty air filter prevents sufficient air flow through the return duct, which can cause the coil to develop an icy layer.
  • Ensure the blower fan is working properly – If this is faulty, it prevents your A/C unit from generating enough airflow to keep the coil from freezing over. 
  • Check your condensate drain line – Your A/C unit has a drip tray that collects once-humid air that eventually flows out of the unit through a built-in drainage system. If this system becomes clogged, the water in the tray becomes backed up and can overflow, making it more vulnerable to freezing.
  • Check your vents – If your vents are blocked or closed, you’re restricting airflow. Too much restriction can potentially cause your A/C system to freeze up.

AAA Heating & Cooling: Providing HVAC Maintenance and Repair Services in the Greater Portland Area

Air conditioner maintenance is more than just a yearly task where an HVAC professional comes out to assess and service your system.

Properly and regularly maintaining your A/C unit, including properly preparing your HVAC for winter, can help increase its efficiency and minimize the need for future repairs. 

AAA Heating & Cooling is the leader in residential and commercial heating and air conditioning services in the Portland area. We provide reliable HVAC services to businesses and homeowners, including:

  • Home heating services
  • Home air conditioning services
  • Commercial furnace services
  • Commercial air conditioning services
  • Duct cleaning
  • HVAC winter maintenance
  • Winter HVAC prep
  • And more

Contact us today for your HVAC service and installation needs.

hvac winter maintenance