Winter is right around the corner and that means it will soon be time to turn off the air conditioning and start up the furnace. However, simply turning off your air conditioner and assuming it will function without flaw once next summer arrives is a mistake. Be proactive by preparing your air conditioner for the harsh winter. Minor preparations made in the coming weeks can make a major difference when you turn the air conditioner back on eight months later. Follow these steps to keep your air conditioner in tip-top shape across winter's duration.

Turn the Air Conditioner's Power Off

Start out by turning off the exterior power to the unit. Air conditioners are designed with an exterior circuit that controls the power that is sent to the unit. Open the box on the side of the house by the unit and pinpoint the red circuit handle. Flip it upside down then reinsert it in the slot. Close the box's lid. Turning the power off will prevent damage to the air conditioning unit and also prevent you and others from being electrocuted when working with the unit. Furthermore, turning off the power will prevent the air conditioner from accidentally being placed in the “on” position in the midst of winter. The last thing you want is for your air conditioner to be errantly turned on in the winter months when its water can freeze and damage the unit's condensing unit.

Cover the Air Conditioner's Pipes

The pipes that extend from the air conditioner to your house contain water. They should be wrapped with foam insulation strips and secured with duct tape so they are not exposed to winter's freezing temperatures. You can also use foam blocks and duct tape to protect these pipes.

Clean Around the Air Conditioner Unit

Take a close look at the area around the air conditioner. If you spot any sort of debris like leaves, lawn clippings, branches or other items, sweep, rake or pick them up. Clear out at least a two foot radius around the air conditioner. Trim plants that are growing over or near the unit. You can also use a hose to wash off bugs and grime from the condensing coils and fan blades. Such a thorough cleaning will reduce the chances of clogging and combat rust/damage. It will also make the area less inviting to animals looking for a new home.

Protect the Unit

It is important to safeguard your air conditioner so leaves, ice, snow and other items do not seep in. Grab a square of plywood and place it atop the system. Place a large rock or a brick on top of the plywood to keep it firmly in place.

Take protection a step further by covering the unit. Wrap a thick plastic or vinyl tarp around the unit and tie it together with rope or bungee cords. Leave just enough slack so residual debris, moisture and condensation aren't trapped inside.