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Olive’s Gardening Tips for a Better AC (Rocks, Not Mulch!)


I’d love to tell you that I’ve got a green thumb, but the truth is I don’t actually have any thumbs at all. But I’ve got green paws—I know all about the best gardening tips when it comes to protecting your air conditioning system.

Okay, I can hear what you’re thinking right now. “What in the world does gardening have to do with my air conditioning system?” You might be surprised to discover that good garden planning can help your air conditioner work at higher efficiency and avoid many different repair problems.

Protecting the Outdoor Air Conditioning Cabinet With Smart Gardening

The outdoor cabinet of your air conditioning system (or heat pump) is called the condenser. This is where the compressor, exhaust fan and condenser coil are located. To ensure your AC works its best, this cabinet needs to be kept clean and have the area around it clear of obstructions. If the coils are dirty or the grill is blocked, the AC can’t properly exhaust heat to the outside, which will mean a drop in energy efficiency and an increase in repair needs.

The Rock Garden Advantage

Here’s my big gardening tip for this post: landscape the area around your AC’s condenser with rocks and gravel rather than grass and mulch. The reason is that mulch can be big trouble for the coils in the condenser. If mulch gets into the grill of the cabinet, it will stick to the coils.

Why is My AC Not Cooling Below 75?

This is a common question we receive, and you can insert any number here, depending on what you’re setting your AC at.

Any layer of grime on the coils blocks the release of heat from the refrigerant moving through the coils and cuts into the air conditioning system’s efficiency. Mulch is hard to get off the coils (you’ll want our professionals to handle the job) and will generally make a mess inside the cabinet. A nice rock garden around the AC not only stops mulch problems, but it can also look beautiful as well.

This is what the advice in this blog can help you with.

There are also a few other reasons why your AC won’t reach below a certain temperature. It may be your indoor filter is dirty. Your thermostat may also be weak or dead, so check those two first. If you have taken the steps in this blog and also ensured the issue is not with your thermostat or air filter, it may be time to give your local HVAC company a call at Russell & Abbott.

This is as good a time as any for me to bring up mowing because it’s another reason why gardening with stones around the AC is helpful. Mowing hurls around cut grass that can end up getting into the air conditioner cabinet and blocking the coils. You may love the smell of fresh-cut grass in summer (I sure do!), but it’s much better if the mowing happens far away from the AC cabinet.

Watch Out for Those Hedges

Hedges that are too close to the air conditioner can also lead to trouble. Make sure hedges and branches are trimmed so they don’t grow near to the cabinet and block airflow. You want about 2–3 feet clearance on all sides of the condenser.

A good alternative to gardening with hedges is to use large potted plants. You can move these as necessary during the year so they’re clear of the condenser through the summer or other times when you need the air conditioner running regularly.

If you need help with air conditioning repair or other AC services, our team at Russell & Abbott is your #1 resource.

Stay cool,