Your air conditioner may look big and tough, but like all appliances, it does have its weaknesses. Since air conditioners are not cheap to replace, you want to do your best to help your AC unit avoid these five major threats, each of which increase its risk of breakdowns and malfunctions.
Weeds and Brush
If weeds and brush start growing up and around your outdoor air conditioning unit, a few problems may result. First, the weeds may trap moisture against certain components of the condenser, causing corrosion or rust to set in. Second, the weeds reduce air circulation, which may cause the unit to work harder to pull air into your home. Over time, this increases the risk of various components wearing out prematurely due to the increased strain.
Pull out any weeds that grow around your air conditioner before they get a chance to grow too tall. Also make sure you keep nearby hedges and bushes trimmed back. Sweep up any leaves they shed promptly, too, so they don't end up in the AC unit.
Mold spores can get sucked into your air conditioner through the ducts. As they accumulate within the unit, they can affect the rate of heat transfer, making it harder for your air conditioner to keep your home cool.
To keep mold at bay, make sure you repair any leaks in your plumbing or roofing promptly. This will keep moisture levels under control, which will help reduce mold growth. If you live in a very humid environment, you may want to have a dehumidifier installed. The dehumidifier will remove moisture from the air -- on top of that which is removed by the air conditioner -- so you don't get so much mold in your ducts.
It may also be helpful to have your duct cleaned once a year or so. This way, if there is any mold growing in them, it will be removed sooner rather than later.
Like mold spores, dust can also accumulate in your AC unit and reduce its efficiency. Replacing your air conditioner filter every two months will help trap the dust effectively before it reaches the air conditioner. Having your ducts cleaned annually will help, too. You should also make sure you vacuum your home regularly, using a vacuum with a HEPA filter that does a good job of removing smaller dust particles from the air.
Squirrels, Mice, and Other Pests
Pests can take up residence in your outdoor AC unit, causing all sorts of problems from electrical shorts to reduced air circulation. Squirrels and mice may build nests in the unit during the colder months. In the summer, you need to worry about smaller pests like bees and wasps.
To keep pests from settling into your AC unit, make sure you trim back any vegetation in the area. Clean leaves and other debris out of the air conditioner a couple of times per year. Cover the unit during the winter, and if you do notice any pests lingering around it, purchase a "pest repellent" product from your local home improvement store and set it out near the air conditioner.
Having a tree limb fall on your air conditioner often means you'll need to replace the air conditioner. To avoid this issue, have your trees trimmed once a year to remove dead and dying branches before they fall on their own. If there are branches that overhang your air conditioner directly, consider having them cut away so they don't drop leaves and twigs into the condenser.
Contact a local HVAC company to learn more about protecting your air conditioner.