Stay Comfy Blog

How Much Clearance Should I Have Around My Air Conditioner?

Clear the Air to Improve AC Efficiency 

If you haven’t already given your air conditioner a tune-up this year, now is the time! Summer heat will be upon us before you know it, and it’s best to make sure your AC unit is working as efficient and as effective as possible before you start sweating. We’ve already given you a list of the things you need to do to get your air conditioner ready, but keeping it running well all summer means it also needs enough clearance to do its job.HVAC.png

Give Me Some Space

Think about what the air conditioner is doing to keep you cool – rejecting heat from inside the home, and pushing outside all day long – and it needs proper airflow in order to get that accomplished. If you have a fence, wall, shrubs, bushes, or anything else blocking that transfer of air, you’re just wasting energy and money, because your unit will need to work harder in order to accomplish the cooling effect.

Keith Hill, manager, technical support, for Minnesota Air says to first look at your manufacturer’s manual to find out the amount of clearance your unit needs around it in order to run at peak performance.

“The manufacturer will usually be the best guide,” says Keith, “but as a rule, 12- to 18-inches all the way around the unit is adequate.”

More is always better, Keith says, so if you can, give it even more space than that by trimming back shrubs and bushes that may have grown too close to your AC unit.

If you have taller, more solid items near your AC – like a compost bin or fence – you’ll want even more space between your AC unit and the obstruction, because the air won’t flow as easily around solid objects.

Will it work with shrubs up against the unit?

“Probably, but you will pay for it since the unit will have to work harder and longer to cool your home,” says Keith.

And if it’s not running as effectively, that can mean that the lifespan of your unit may be shortened too, costing you even more in the long run.

Keith says having obstructions around your air conditioning unit is really not a safety issue, but it will have an impact on efficiency, cooling capacity, and unit life expectancy. So, if you want a simple way to keep your air conditioner running well all summer long, take a moment today to step outside and clear the air around your unit. By the time you look at your first energy bill after our first steamy summer week, you’ll be happy you did!

For more tips on maintaining your air conditioning unit, click here, and always make sure to talk to an HVAC professional, like the experts at, to find out more ways to make your home efficient.

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