After faithfully serving your home's cooling needs for months on end, your central A/C unit could use a break. With the fall and winter months on the way, your climate control needs will inevitably shift towards keeping your home nice and warm. That means you won't be using your A/C for the next few months.

It'll be a while before summertime temperatures give way to cooler weather. However, that doesn't mean you can't start preparing your A/C for a well-deserved rest. The following explains what you can do to get your A/C system ready for the winter ahead.

Always Replace That Air Filter

This is something that should go unsaid, but homeowners forget time and again to do this one simple task. Chances are you've already forgotten about changing your air filter, even if it is the most important thing you can do for your HVAC system. Needless to say, a clogged air filter could have a wide variety of consequences for your A/C's continued operation.

If you haven't done so already, go ahead and change the air filter. Ideally, this should be done every three months, although many experts recommend a fresh air filter each month. This will keep dust and airborne debris from venturing further inside of your A/C unit.

Clean the Evaporator Coil

The dark and relatively damp confines of your A/C unit's evaporator coil are the perfect place for mold and mildew to proliferate, especially throughout the winter season when your A/C system is least likely to be disturbed. Cleaning the evaporator coil not only prevents mold growth from taking hold, but it can also boost your system's cooling performance the next time you need it.

You can opt to clean the evaporator coil yourself or have a professional take care of it for you. If you go the former route, make sure to use only a soft-bristled brush and a mild detergent or a foaming, no-rinse cleaner on the coil, as the delicate fins are easily damaged.

Check the Condensate Catch Pan and Drain Line

The catch pan and drain line are two other overlooked areas in your A/C unit that deserve your undivided attention. The catch pan helps collect condensation that drips off of the evaporator coil during the course of the A/C unit's operation. The captured water eventually drains through a small PVC line leading outdoors or into a larger drain situated near the indoor A/C cabinet.

Take a look at the catch pan itself. Make sure there aren't any cracks present and check for any signs of rust, corrosion or other damage. Small cracks can be fixed with epoxy, but pans with larger cracks or corrosion must be replaced entirely.

Protect Your Outdoor A/C Cabinet from Leaves and Snowfall

When you stop using your A/C for the winter, you might want to keep debris and snow from falling into the outdoor cabinet. Keeping a piece of plywood or a loose-fitting, well-ventilated cover over the condenser fan grate will keep leaves, twigs and other debris from falling in. It's not necessary, but it'll offer you extra peace of mind if you're careful.

If you choose to cover your A/C unit, here are a couple of tips worth following:

  • Don't cover the entire unit, as that could trap moisture and give rodents a cozy wintertime shelter.
  • Use a loose-fitting mesh cover that allows air to flow through but keeps leaves and other debris out.

Before you cover your outdoor cabinet, you may want to rinse away any pre-existing debris from the condenser coil. All it usually takes is a quick rinse with a garden hose. Don't forget to let the coil air-dry before topping the cabinet with plywood or mesh cover. For more tips or help with these steps, contact local air conditioning services