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How to Prepare Your Central AC for Winter: A Phoenix Tech Answers

Every Phoenician looks forward to the cool, moderate temperatures of winter. And our AC systems, which have been running all summer, gladly welcome a break from non-stop cooling.

To prepare your AC for winter, we recommend:

  1. Shutting off the outdoor unit (unless you have a heat pump)
  2. Cleaning the outdoor unit
  3. Scheduling a check-up for your heating system

Let’s look at each of these recommendations in more detail below.


Recommendation #1: Shut off the outdoor unit (unless you have a heat pump)

If you have an AC/furnace combo, you can turn off the outdoor AC unit during winter, or at least during the coldest months. To do this, look for an electrical box near the outdoor unit. Inside the box is an ON/OFF switch which you can turn to the OFF position.

However, if you have a heat pump, you’ll need to leave the outdoor unit on because your heat pump uses it to warm your home.

Don’t know if you have a heat pump or regular AC? Refer to our blog: “How Do I Know If I Have an AC or a Heat Pump?

Recommendation #2: Clean the outdoor unit

After the dusty monsoon season, your outdoor unit’s coils and fins are probably dirty and covered with debris. Before retiring your AC for the winter, we recommend that you clean these parts (or have a professional clean them for you).

To clean your outdoor unit, follow these steps:

  1. Make sure the outdoor unit is turned off.
  2. Remove large debris (such as leaves or sticks) from the fins around the outdoor unit.
  3. Unscrew the top of the outdoor unit and locate the copper lines (coils) that wrap around the unit.
  4. Spray the coils with water, using a low or medium hose setting. Be careful not to soak the fan motor or electrical connections as you spray the coils.
  5. Apply HVAC coil cleaner and wait 10 minutes to let the cleaner eat away the dust buildup.
  6. Gently rinse the coils with water to flush the coil cleaner and dust buildup off of the coils.
  7. Wash the fins surrounding the outdoor unit using the same medium or low hose setting.

If you have an AC cover, you can put it on the outdoor unit after it has dried from the cleaning. This will keep dust off of the unit during winter. Be sure to remove the cover once you turn your AC back on.

However, if you have a heat pump, you should leave the outdoor unit uncovered because otherwise you’ll prevent the heat pump from warming your home.

Recommendation #3: Schedule a check-up for your heating system

Whether you have a furnace or a heat pump, it’s a good idea to have it checked out by a professional before winter starts.

During a check-up, a technician will inspect and clean important parts to make sure they are functioning properly. If a part needs to be fixed or replaced, the technician can often fix it then or schedule a follow-up visit, which saves you the hassle of being stuck with a broken heating system in the middle of winter.

A check-up also helps your heating system run at its highest efficiency. When your furnace or heat pump runs at its highest efficiency, it consumes less energy to heat your home, which results in lower monthly energy bills.

Need a check-up for your heating system?

When you hire George Brazil for an HVAC check-up, you can count on our technicians to thoroughly inspect your furnace or heat pump to make sure it’s ready for winter.