Watch Out: Falling Leaves Can Spell Trouble For Your HVAC System

As you admire the leaves turning color this autumn, you'll also want to watch out for leaves that fall near your HVAC system. Falling leaves can pose a significant danger to your HVAC equipment, resulting in degraded performance and hundreds of dollars spent on emergency repairs.

To keep unexpected repairs from eating away your budget this fall, it's important to take care of your HVAC unit through seasonal maintenance. The following explains what type of damage falling leaves can do to your unit as well as tips on how to keep that damage from happening.

How Fallen Leaves Can Damage Your HVAC Unit

Your HVAC system's outdoor cabinet plays a critical role in how your system operates. The outdoor cabinet contains the condenser coil, which is tasked with releasing the latent heat transferred from the evaporator coil indoors. A condenser fan helps pull outside air from the bottom of the cabinet so it can flow through the condenser coil. This airflow carries the latent heat through the condenser fan so it can be ejected outdoors.

Over the course of the fall season, leaves and other debris can accumulate around the outdoor cabinet. As your HVAC system operates, fallen leaves can get sucked inside and clog up the cabinet, creating blockages that prevent air from flowing into the cabinet. Without adequate airflow, your HVAC system won't be able to keep your home at comfortable temperatures. Not only that, your HVAC system can also experience increased wear and tear and higher energy consumption.

How to Keep Your HVAC System Safe

Keeping your HVAC system clear of fallen leaves and other debris is absolutely crucial if you want to avoid expensive breakdowns and poor performance. Here are a few things you can do to prevent falling leaves from taking a toll on your HVAC equipment:

  • Break out the rake - Raking up leaves on a regular basis may be hard, backbreaking work, but it's the best way to prevent large accumulations of fallen leaves around your HVAC system. If you want to save your back the trouble, you may want to consider using an electric leaf blower with a built-in vacuum instead.
  • Trim back those bushes - If you have any bushes or shrubs near your HVAC system, it's a good idea to keep them trimmed back. This will prevent any falling leaves or debris from those bushes from interfering with your HVAC system.
  • Clean it out - Don't hesitate to open the outdoor cabinet and clean out any fallen leaves that managed to get inside. Just make sure the HVAC system is turned off while it's being cleaned.
  • Hose it down - Use your garden hose to rinse off any leaves, dirt or debris from the condenser coil and other areas of the unit.

Other Steps You Can Take

In addition to the above, there are plenty of other steps you can take to protect your HVAC system against falling leaves. When landscaping around your HVAC unit, you should always leave at least two feet of space between the unit and your landscaping. It's also a good idea to keep five feet of clearance above the HVAC unit. When planning trees and shrubs near the HVAC unit, consider planting varieties that won't shed their leaves as readily as others.

If you won't be using your HVAC system at all during the fall, you can protect your outdoor cabinet from falling leaves by keeping it covered up. It's best to use an HVAC cover with a breathable mesh design to prevent lingering moisture from taking hold within the unit. This will keep rust and corrosion from forming inside, plus the relatively open design discourages small animals from nesting inside.

If you don't have a mesh cover, simply covering the top of the unit with a large piece of plywood should prevent debris from getting inside. Don't forget to weigh down the plywood with a brick or cinder block so it isn't blown away by strong winds. Talk to an HVAC professional from a place like C B Lucas Heating & Air Conditioning for more suggestions.