HVAC Tips:

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Prune Shrubs Around Outdoor Unit:

shrubs too close to outdoor unit

Many people, builders, and landscapers like to hide the outdoor unit behind shrubs or fences. There are some benefits to this, which we will explain below. But it can become a negative if not maintained or done properly.

Maintaining proper airflow around and through the outdoor unit is critical for system performance!

The outdoor unit is a heat transfer device - a fan pulls the outside air through the refrigerant coils and discharges it up through the top (on most units). If the outdoor unit is crowded by a fence or shrubs, or if the bottom few inches of the coil is buried under mulch, restricting the air-flow, it will not work properly. Thus decreasing efficiency, reducing the life span, and possibly causing damage.

outdoor unit crowded by shrubs, not enough airflow through outdoor coil
Shown: Overgrown shrubs blocking airflow, also making servicing difficult

Pros For Hiding The Outdoor Unit:

  1. Hiding the unit can reduce the noise level.
  2. On hot summer days it can help shade the unit. This will allow it to run cooler and more efficiently.
  3. During the winter months, it can block the cold winds from hitting the unit and allowing the defrost mode to work quicker. (Heat Pumps Only)
  4. While on the subject of heat pumps, hiding the unit can also reduce snow drifts around the unit.
  5. And last but not least, out of site is out of mind. Many people prefer not to see the outdoor unit.

Cons For Hiding The Outdoor Unit:

  1. If the fence or shrubs are too close to the outdoor unit, it can restrict the air-flow, causing serious problems.
  2. Makes it harder to clean, service, and repair.
  3. It is more difficult to notice a potential problem, such as a faulty fan motor or an iced-up heat pump.
  4. On heat pumps, it can be more difficult to get to the unit to remove snow and ice in the winter months.
  5. Close shrubs can attract rodents nests in the unit. They tend to eat the wiring which causes problems.

Tips For Hiding The Outdoor Unit:

  1. Keep an 18" to 36" air space on all sides of unit. Prune back as required.
  2. Keep a 3 to 4 foot air space above the unit. Prune back tree branches.
  3. When planting, allow room for long-term growth - 5 and 10 years.
  4. If building a fence, make sure it can be easily opened or removed. The unit needs to be serviced regularly. If any major repairs need to be made, the service man may need access to all sides on the unit.

Pruning shrubs away from heat pump or air conditioner
Pruning shrubs around outdoor unit to keep at least an 18 inch air space around it.


  • Good shrubs for planting around the outdoor unit are: yews, upright junipers, arborvitaes.
  • Make sure the outdoor coil is clean for better efficiency and longer life.
  • Do not allow dirt or mulch to block the outdoor coil.
  • If you have an air conditioner, covering it in the fall and winter will help protect the coil and fan blades. Just remember to take it off before turning it back on.


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