When it comes to the outdoor unit for your air conditioner, out of sight, out of mind often applies. Most outdoor units are positioned in an out of way place so they aren't noticeable, but this also makes it easy to overlook them. Then, when your AC starts having problems because of lack of air flow to the outdoor unit, a call to the repair shop is made. With a little forethought and a regular schedule for inspections, you can avoid many outdoor unit problems.
#1: Trim back the landscaping
You don't want plants, whether it is grass, flowers, or shrubbery, growing too close to the outdoor unit. They block the air flow into the unit, then the fallen leaves and twigs get pulled in through the vents on the side of the unit or through the top fan. This cause debris buildup inside, which can damage the fan or fan motor. Trim back any plants so there are at least 2 feet of clearance on all sides of the AC unit. Then, maintain the plantings by trimming regularly and raking up debris so you don't have any problems.
#2: Vacuum out the interior
No matter how careful you are with the landscaping, chances are some debris will make its way into the unit. Fortunately, you can loosen a couple of screws and lift the housing cover off the exterior unit – just make sure you turn it off first. Then, use a shop vacuum to vacuum out the dirt and leaves from inside the AC. Finish by replacing the housing and tightening the screws. This should be done in the fall after the leaves are done dropping and again in spring before you turn on the unit for the season.
#3: Add a windbreak
The idea of a windbreak is that it will keep debris out of your unit. A simple picket fence with overlapping offset pickets works well since this style allows air to circulate through without letting leaves and debris through. Build the fence several feet from the unit so it doesn't interfere with airflow. You will still need to check around the unit and continue with twice-yearly cleanings since the fence won't keep out all debris. Do not close the top of the fence though since this will trap heat from the unit and prevent enough air from reaching it.
For more information and assistance, contact local air conditioning contractors.