How Much Space To Leave Around Outdoor HVAC Unit?

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Do you want to install a new outdoor air conditioner but aren't sure how far away it can be from your walls? Perhaps you're remodeling your home and need to relocate the outdoor air conditioning unit, and you're wondering what's the ideal clearance between it from the house? Wonder no more! We did in-depth research on the topic, and here's what we found out. 

Each side of your air conditioner should have at least one foot (or 12 inches) of spacing, according to a standard rule of thumb. Your air conditioner's manufacturer may have precise clearance requirements, but it's normally between 12 and 24 inches.

You may think now that you figure out what is the right distances when you install your new air conditioner. What about the obstructions spacing? The overhead clearances? Keep on reading to learn more about air conditioner clearance and the considerations you'll need to make. Let's get started!

Air conditioning system unit installed outside facade of the house, How Much Space To Leave Around Outdoor HVAC Unit?

The Best Clearance For An Outdoor Air Conditioner 

You'll need the right amount of clearance above and on each side of your outdoor air conditioning unit to avoid the need for premature air conditioning repair in the future. However, the amount of clearance required is determined by your surrounding environment.

If the unit is surrounded by a more porous material, such as shrubbery, which allows air to easily pass through, you'll need less clearance for it. On the other hand, if the unit is surrounded by a solid wall, you'll require extra space around your outdoor AC. 

Each air conditioner model has a specified maximum and minimum distance away from any impediment for installation. Furthermore, most manufacturers link these clearances to the owner's manual. 

Site Pre-Inspection

HVAC specialists normally visit and inspect the location where you will install the outside unit. This allows them to gain a better understanding of the environment and the conditions that must be considered in order to achieve proper clearance.

It also allows them to identify any faults or possible issues that may hinder the outside unit's installation. It does enable them to establish a better plan for the work ahead of time and avoid mistakes in the design, installation, and positioning of your outdoor air conditioning equipment.

Checking Air Conditioning Unit On Building Rooftop

Why You Should Maintain Proper Clearance When Installing Your Outdoor AC?

Unobstructed airflow across the condenser and compressor of the outside unit is required for optimum operation of your air conditioner. Airflow might be restricted if the unit is placed too close to an object. As a result, your air conditioner's efficiency will be diminished sooner than expected. You also may encounter these drawbacks

  • There will be insufficient cooling in your home.
  • In order to provide the necessary amount of cooling within your home, your air conditioner may need to use more electricity, which may result in soaring electric bills.
  • The heat produced by the condenser and compressor will not be released. This may cause harm to your air conditioner's components and reduce the unit's service life.

Determining Clearance Guidelines For Installing Outdoor AC

It's fairly uncommon for manufacturers to have various clearances distance guidelines for their air conditioners outside units. In addition, it is best to review the installation manual that came with the air conditioner you purchased and follow the instructions.

A minimum of one foot of clearance is required on each side of your air conditioner. Specific clearance recommendations may range from 12 to 24 inches depending on the air conditioner's manufacturer.

Moreover, various elements must be taken into account while determining the appropriate clearance distances. The three types of impediments that your HVAC contractor should be aware of include the following:

Structural Factor

Structures identical to parts of the home or the surrounding fence are also known as constructional obstructions. Obstacles include things like the post, dog house, walls, large pipelines, and even landscape architecture and other barriers that lie near the construction site.

When placing an outdoor air conditioner near such structures, keep a space of at least two feet between the outdoor unit and the construction impediments. If the outside unit is adjacent to a window or entry door, it should be alright as long as the exhaust air from the outdoor unit does not enter the home.

Mechanical Factor

Mechanical impediments consist of kitchen exhaust vents, vents for heating appliances, vents for laundry dryers, generator exhaust, etc. These are types of equipment with vents that can produce exhaust and could also restrict your outdoor air conditioning unit's ability to perform properly.

When positioned too close to an outdoor air conditioner, these vents might restrict airflow and cause problems. Furthermore, when mechanical systems such as gas vents and oil tank fill valves are positioned too close to an outside AC unit, they can cause a fire.

Between an outdoor unit and such mechanical obstruction, a minimum distance of 4 to 8 feet is required. At best, it is still preferable to put the unit and mechanical obstruction in separate locations.

old outdoor ventilation air ducts and air conditioners

Landscaping Factor

Things such as bushes, trees, potted plants, and vegetation are referred to as landscape obstructions. To offset the aesthetics of the outside unit, one common mistake is to place it adjacent to a landscaping impediment.

To retain a pleasing outdoor aesthetic, some homeowners place their outdoor units next to landscaping barriers such as shrubs, long blade grass, and potted plants. This should be avoided, as landscape impediments can also hinder airflow across an air conditioner's outside unit.

A clearance distance of at least 2 feet should be maintained between the outdoor unit and the landscaping impediment. Outgrowths should also be clipped on a regular basis to maintain the minimum clearance required.

Ideal Clearance Between Two Outdoor Air Conditioners

Some houses have two or more air conditioning systems, with one unit controlling the temperature on each story. These outside units should be positioned at a particular distance from one another so that they do not compete for airflow, resulting in airflow constraints for all units.

That’s why HVAC installers should establish a minimum clearance distance of 4 feet between two outdoor units. Because when two outside units are placed too close together, both units' airflow may be restricted, and, as a result, might cause problems.

Furthermore, one unit may end up absorbing the heated air blown out by the other AC unit, substantially compromising its performance.

Double AC units outside white brick home with green landscape and gravel

Recommended Overhead Clearance For Outdoor AC Units

Apart from ensuring adequate clearance on either side of the outdoor air conditioner units, there should also be sufficient space at the top. For air to circulate properly in and out, at least 60 inches is the recommended overhead clearance.

If you fail to follow the ideal overhead clearance, the air conditioner may draw in warmer air, causing it to work less efficiently. This could increase your energy expenditures while also increasing the wear and tear on your air conditioner.

Why Ensuring Clearance Of Outdoor Heat Pump Is Important?

Installing outdoor heat pumps, also known as compressor units or condensers in the case of regular house air conditioning units, requires enough clearance. Homeowners should be aware of it as well. The compressor cabinet of a home heat pump must have appropriate clearance on all sides in order to function properly.

Heating and air conditioning outdoor unit in back of a house electric

Outdoor heat pumps should always be installed around 2 feet (24 inches) away from walls and other obstructions, such as plants and bushes, rocks, and other such objects, according to professional air conditioning installation specialists. This allows the condenser to perform efficiently without putting the device under additional strain.

Final Words

Air conditioning system unit installed outside facade of the house

Manufacturers recommend varied ideal clearances for outdoor air conditioner models. You will usually find installation instructions that come with your air conditioner. If you don't have access to an installation guide, you can use the one-foot rule of thumb as the minimum spacing around your HVAC unit.

Enough AC unit clearance ensures proper HVAC installation. If you hire a licensed professional air conditioning technician to do the job for you, you won't have to worry about any issues. Through careful preparation and execution, their skills will provide the finest possible outcome.

For more insight, check out these related posts:

How Much Clearance Does A Floor Vent Need?

How Much Does It Cost To Install HVAC In Basement?

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