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Tips for the Outdoor Unit!

heat pump installation, well-planned, properly installed heat pump

A well-planned heat pump installation!

  1. The heat pump is elevated above anticipated snowfall for better efficiency and proper drainage.
  2. A base of stone surrounds the unit; keeping the coils clean from dirt and grass, keeping the unit level and the service tech's feet clean.
  3. Shrubs provide a windbreak, sound barrier and shading but are far enough away from the unit as not to interfere with performance or servicing.
  4. Unit is at least 18" away from wall for performance and servicing.
  5. The disconnect box is within 6' of unit but not directly behind it.

Below are some tips, advice and maintenance guidelines for your outdoor air conditioner and/or heat pump. These tips are for better efficiency, longer life, and easier service.

Most of the information here applies to both air conditioners and heat pumps. But read carefully, some of the information is for one or the other. If you follow any of these tips make sure you know if you have a heat pump or an air conditioner or damage could result.

Tips for Better Efficiency:

  1. Set thermostat at one temperature. Constant adjusting can cause higher utility costs. If using your thermostat as a setback type, limit the setbacks to twice a day such as when you are at work and when you are sleeping. Only setback the thermostat 6% of desired temperature (approximately five degrees).
  2. In the heating mode, try not to set the thermostat below 65 degrees or above 75 degrees. Below 65 degrees, a heat pump just won't put out enough heat, and above 75 degrees, it's using too much energy. In the cooling mode, try not to set the thermostat below 70 degrees. Besides higher utility costs, this can cause the indoor coil to freeze and cause condensation in the house.
  3. Don't stack things on top of the unit. If the fan is on the top of the unit, the air-flow cannot be restricted. Do not put your rolled-up garden hose or landscaping products on the unit. We see this all the time!
  4. Keep the outdoor condenser coils clean. If they get dirty you can use a heavy duty degreaser and hose them down. Just turn the unit off first.
  5. When mowing the lawn, direct the mower away from the unit. A coil blocked with grass clippings and debris drastically reduces the efficiency.
  6. When using a weed whacker be careful near the unit. Debris can damage the coil, flatten the aluminum fins, and cut the thermostat wires; shorting out the transformer. We see this all the time, and it is an expensive repair.

Use caution around the outdoor unit:

For efficiency, comfort, and longevity of equipment...

Outdoor unit with rolled-up hose on top of it
Never block the airflow of a heat pump or an air condtioner
outdoor unit surrounded by overgrown shrubs
Shrubs should be pruned back 18 inches from all sides of unit

Be careful with weed whacker and lawn mower...

outdoor coil damaged by weed whacker
Coil fins damaged by weed whacker
outdoor coil blocked with grass clippings
Coil blocked with grass clippings

Don't let your dog urinate on the unit... Yep, that caused this!

outdoor coil damaged by dog urine
Aluminum fin and copper coil damage
aluminum fin and copper tube damage
Massive loss of efficiency

Common Sense Tips:

  1. Don't plant prickly bushes like roses or holly around the unit. No one will want to service it!
  2. Don't grow a garden or plant exotic flowers around the outdoor unit and expect the service technician to tip-toe around everything.
  3. When planting shrubs, don't block the access panels or the coil. Plan to keep 18 to 30 inches around the unit. Don't forget to plan for the growth of the shrubs - five, ten, even fifteen years down the road.
  4. Many people like to completely hide the outdoor unit behind shrubs. If you do this don't be surprised if the technician refuses to service the unit. Please have some consideration, and leave a path wide enough to accommodate the technician, his tools and enough room to work.
  5. Having crushed stone around the unit is best. It allows for good drainage, keeps the unit level and from sinking, keeps the coils clean from washed-up grass and dirt, and also keeps the service technicians shoes clean. This will also keep your floors and carpeting clean.
  6. If building a fence around the unit, allow for room to service, or even replace the unit. If any major repairs need to be made, the service technician may need access to all sides on the unit. Don't expect the service tech to have to jump or climb over a fence - it's not safe or practical. The unit should be serviced on a regular basis. Install a gate that can be easily opened. We often see fences without gates - and the customer expects the technician to unbolt and remove the fence and then re-install it when he is finished. Not very considerate!

A fence is fine if properly thought out:

Make sure there is enough room for proper airflow & servicing...

fence installed around heat pump
Outside view of fence looks very nice
fence installed too close to service outdoor unit
But it's too close to service the unit

Heat Pump Only Tips:

  1. Keep snow, ice, and leaves away from the outdoor unit. This includes the top, sides, and bottom.
  2. Make it a habit to look at the outdoor heat pump during the winter months for signs of excessive ice or snow build-up on or around the heat pump. Especially after bad weather.
  3. If the unit is covered in snow or ice, it must be removed for it to work properly. Turn the thermostat to Emergency heat or the Off position while removing the snow and ice. You can pour warm water over the unit to melt the snow and ice. Even cold water from a hose will help.
  4. Don't use any sharp objects to pick or knock the ice off the coils of the heat pump. This could cause severe damage and personal injury. Once the unit is clear of snow and ice turn the thermostat back to normal heating. If the unit ices up again, call for service.
  5. Don't let the outdoor unit sit underneath a leaking gutter. In the winter months, water will drip on the top of the unit and freeze solid. This will restrict the air flow and cause the whole unit to freeze-up.
  6. Heat Pumps should be elevated 4 to 8 inches above ground level to keep coils clear of snow and ice and to allow for proper drainage. Contact our Service Department if you would like your unit raised.

For Air Conditioners Only...



  • Cover the top of the outdoor unit in the fall and winter when the air conditioner is not in use. Great for areas with lots of trees where falling branches can damage the unit. It also keeps heavy ice from bending or cracking the fan blades.
  • Caution, this is for air conditioners only, not heat pumps, and make sure the unit is off. Do not attempt to run the air conditioning with the outdoor unit covered. Also remember to remove the cover in Spring before turning on the air.


Please keep in mind that the information found on our website is provided free of charge and Hannabery HVAC does not assume any liability resulting from the information we provide. If you have a tip regarding your HVAC system that you would like to share, let us know... If we like it, we may add it to our website!

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