Making sure your air conditioning units are prepped for winter can prevent expensive replacement costs once spring and summer arrive. Replacing window units averages $275 per air conditioner while replacing your central air conditioning can range from $1,800 to $10,000. Considering tarps and cleaners can cost less than $20 combined, this preventive work is a great return on investment!

What to Do

Safeguard your air conditioning units during the winter months to boost their durability and operating life. ‍

What You’ll Need

The Basics

  •  Garden hose and spray nozzle
  •  Gentle cleaner (e.g., dishwashing soap or window cleaner)
  •  Soft towel or sponge
  •  Window-unit-sized covers (e.g., tarps, newspaper, burlap)
  •  Fasteners (e.g., bungee cords)

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How to Do It

For Central A/C

Turn off the power to your central A/C unit. Clean coils with a bristle brush then use a garden hose to remove accumulated dirt and debris. Wipe down hard-to-reach spots with a gentle cleaner (e.g., dishwashing soap) and a towel.

Clean the central A/C filter, which is typically found at the unit’s return air duct (located inside your home, often in the basement). Open the front grill and remove the filter then tap gently to remove accumulated dust and dirt; you can also vacuum or brush them clean if necessary. Rinse them clean and let them dry completely, then return to the unit.

Back outside, cover all exterior pipes to the central A/C unit. Your unit itself should be designed to withstand winter conditions and resist pests and doesn’t need to be covered (as this can build up condensation and damage the system or create a safe haven for animals seeking shelter). If you’re concerned about heavy storms, secure a piece of plywood to the top of the unit to protect from falling branches and the like.

For Removable Window Units

Unplug the window air conditioning unit and remove panels that hold it in place. Then remove the air conditioning unit from its window and clean out any accumulated debris such as dirt or leaves. Check for and remove any bugs and mold. If the unit is particularly dirty, clean with a garden hose or a bucket of soap and water. Allow the air conditioner to dry completely, including draining any residual water from the cooling unit. Once dry, wrap or cover each air conditioner and store in a place that’s warm, dry, and elevated to prevent condensation buildup and rust. Repeat with each removable window air conditioning unit until all are cleaned and stored.

For Permanent Window Units

Unplug the in-window air conditioning unit then hose it off, remove any remaining debris, and let dry completely. Once dry, encase the air conditioning unit with burlap, a tarp, or a custom winter air conditioner cover. Secure cover with bungee cords as needed. Repeat with each in-window air conditioning unit around your home. Monitor all covers regularly during winter months to ensure there are no breaches (e.g., fabric tears) and replace as necessary.

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The opinions expressed in this post are for informational purposes only. To determine the best financing for your personal circumstances and goals, consult with a licensed advisor.