Transitioning From Summer To Winter: How To Protect Your Air Conditioner As The Weather Cools

Autumn brings a lot of things with it, including changing leaves, football, and cooler temperatures. However, in some parts of the United States, particularly in humid subtropical areas, it can still remain uncomfortable during the warmest parts of some days, even into the middle of fall. Making the transition from summer-to-fall requires that you do things a little differently when it comes to your home's air conditioning system. Here is what you need to know to protect it:

Be aware when it turns cooler than sixty degrees

Though the compressor on a central air conditioning unit is sealed, it contains a special lubricant that allows the compressor to run for lengthy periods of time during hot weather. This lubricant becomes thin as it warms, and it thickens during cooler weather. If you turn on your air conditioner during cool weather, your compressor may be damaged by operating while surrounded by this thick lubricant.

You should remain aware of the outside temperature so that you don't inadvertently run your system in temperatures lower than 60 degrees Fahrenheit, the standard agreed upon by air conditioning professionals. To help you remember, obtain an inexpensive, battery-powered wireless thermometer; place the temperature probe in an outdoor shaded area, and keep the monitor close to your thermostat. 

Don't forget your filter

Your air conditioner's filter is a vital piece of protective equipment for your system. Without it, your system would "inhale" harmful dust and other particles that will greatly shorten its lifespan. That is why it is important to keep a clean filter installed at all times. However, if you find yourself turning your air conditioner on infrequently, it is easy to forget changing the filter as you might be accustomed to during summer.

Consistency is the key in this situation: continue to change your filter monthly, even if you aren't using your air conditioner regularly. A fiberglass-strand filter is inexpensive and effective, and there is no reason for you to gamble your system's health to save a few dollars. If you have trouble remembering to change your filter, set a reminder on your smart phone, or circle the date on a calendar.

Dehumidify your home

Air conditioners remove moisture from the air, and that is why they are effective at cooling; cold air simply can't retain moisture, and that relationship makes for a more comfortable, dry environment. When humidity is more problematic than heat during the fall, you can gain most of the benefit of using an air conditioner by operating a dehumidifier instead.

Dehumidifiers are available in small, portable sizes, or you can install a whole-house dehumidifier in conjunction with your existing central air conditioning system ductwork. They operate at a reduced cost over air conditioners, and you can create a comfortable indoor climate without placing unnecessary wear on your air conditioner. In addition, you will obtain an added benefit of being able to operate your dehumidifier during the summer and "boost" your system's performance by removing additional moisture.

Don't cover your outside unit

Some individuals winterize their air conditioning system by covering outside components. While it may seem like a good thing to do, placing a cover over your outside air conditioner condenser and compressor unit can lead to more harm than good. Central air conditioning systems are designed to operate in all types of weather, and they are usually adequately shrouded from most wintry precipitation.

By covering the unit, you risk creating an ideal shelter for animals that may be seeking a spot to nest for the winter. These animals, including mice and rats, are able to chew wiring and can do incredible damage to system components. In addition, if you forget to remove the cover when you restart your air conditioner in the spring, you will likely overheat your system and potentially damage your compressor. Only cover your outside condenser and compressor unit if it is particularly exposed to heavy amounts of ice or snow or if a qualified air conditioning contractor directs you to do so.