AC unit covered in snow

Protecting Your Outdoor HVAC Unit From Snow and Ice

The ice and snow make us all want to stay inside and be warm where it is dry and cozy. The outdoor portion of your HVAC unit isn’t so lucky though as it remains outdoors and endures the elements.

Your HVAC system is designed to handle the ice and snow better than what you might realize, however, there are still situations you have to keep an eye on.

The unit should have an emergency shut-off and a self-defrost function for when it becomes encased by snow and ice. This temporarily cuts off the heat being pumped into your home. It normally doesn’t last more than a few minutes but if the snow and ice build-up is excessive it could be longer or happen more frequently. In extremely cold temperatures, it is important to make sure it isn’t happening too often or you risk putting your pipes in danger of freezing.

If your HVAC unit has an aluminum fan and coil fins, ice and snow can actually bend the fins which at best will create a loud noise and at worst break the fin.

Snow and ice can lead to your components working twice as hard to provide the normal amount of air flow. When this happens, short-circuiting is another problem waiting to occur. As is the case in any season, a clean air filter is one of the most crucial things to have to secure proper air flow. It’s also one of the easiest to check and replace.

It is important to clear your outdoor unit of any debris, no matter if it is just snow and ice or items pushed up against the unit because of the snow and ice. Also be aware if the unit is under the path of a gutter that no ice is melting from above and finding its way down to the unit.

When an HVAC unit is installed, it shouldn’t be placed directly on the ground. It should be high enough to avoid normal snowfall accumulation on the ground (6 to 10 inches). Also, the unit should be at least 18 inches from the exterior of a wall.

A row of shrubs or a fence can act a wind barrier but make sure your barrier is far enough away that air flow remains normal.

McAtee Plumbing, Heating and Cooling provides reliable service to six different states. Contact us today if you need help getting your plumbing or HVAC issues resolved this winter.

For Clarksburg, Fairmont, Morgantown, Weston, Charleston, Huntington, and surrounding areas in West Virginia, call 304-623-3102. For Charleston and surrounding areas in Ohio, call 614-252-9400. For Detroit and surrounding areas in Michigan, call 313-277-9969. For Atlanta and surrounding areas in Georgia, call 678-367-0116. For Columbia, Charleston, and surrounding areas in South Carolina as well as the Charlotte area of North Carolina, call 843-352-3116. Or you can contact McAtee by email at Visit our website at