Recently, the team at Techtric Engineering, received a complaint from a client: their split air conditioning system was not providing enough cooling. The client, further told us that the split system was purchased only last summer, and the buildup to the encountered problem was gradual.

This came as a surprise to us. Since, it’s very rare for the refrigerant to get contaminated, or for the air filters to get choked to such great extent—the two most common causes of insufficient cooling—in a period of 12 months.

When you take into account that the air conditioner was installed at a single unit bungalow, it becomes even more unlikely.

The Inspection…

We decided to pay a visit and inspect the problem on our own. Just, as we reached the installation site, and asked the client to guide us to the location where the outdoor unit was installed, we instantly acknowledged the underlying cause of the problem.

It was visibly apparent.

The outdoor unit was installed about one ft. away from the wall of the building.

Whoever had installed the outdoor unit, failed to comply with the spacing rules – an important consideration involving the split air conditioner installation process.

As a company, having vast experience in the field of service and air conditioner installation in Irving TX, this wasn’t the first time that we came across an improper installation practice. HVAC professionals, lacking in experience, can sometimes be found guilty of not taking into consideration the clearance distances, when installing an outdoor unit. We also did it, when we first started. It’s the part of a HVAC professional’s learning curve.

However, following the incident, we decided to do something about it. So, we came up with this blog. Homeowners, can use the information in this blog to ensure that the outdoor unit of their air conditioner system has been installed appropriately. While, HVAC professionals, performing air conditioner installation, for the first time, can use this as a sort of checklist to comply with good installation practices.

Why is it important, to comply with the instructions pertaining to clearance distances, when installing the outdoor unit of your air conditioner?

Your air conditioner needs unobstructed flow of air across the condenser and compressor of the outdoor unit, to work efficiently. If, the outdoor unit is installed too close to an obstruction, which may restrict the flow of air, your air conditioner’s working efficiency would be reduced. Furthermore:

  • You won’t get enough cooling.
  • The air conditioner would consume more electricity to produce cooling, hence, you will be billed higher.
  • The heat generated inside the compressor and the condenser, won’t be expelled, which would reduce the service life of the components of your air conditioner.

Therefore, it is important for the HVAC professional, hired to perform air conditioner installation, to comply with the instructions entailing the spacing rules, when installing the outdoor unit of a split air conditioner.

How to Determine the Clearance Distances for the Outdoor Unit of an Air Conditioner?

Instructions regarding clearance requirements, vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. So, the best way to determine the spacing rules for an outdoor unit, is to refer to the Manufacturer’s Installation Manual. The clearance requirements, contained in the manual, are the standards and should be followed exactly as stated.

However, sometimes, it’s not possible to access the installation manual. Or, it could be that the contents of the manual do not state instructions regarding a particular obstruction that you may come across, when performing the installation.

This is where, rule of thumb comes in.

Spacing Guidelines: The Rule of Thumb

The rule of thumb covers clearance requirements, for mainly four types of obstructions, that an HVAC professional, executing air conditioner installation in Irving, TX, will encounter. These are:

  • Constructional obstructions, like, wall, fence etc.
  • Landscaping obstructions, like, shrubs, potted plants etc.
  • Mechanical obstructions include systems like kitchen exhaust vent, oil tank fill valve etc.
  • Two or more outdoor units, lying in close proximity to each other.

Clearance Requirements in Case of a Constructional Obstruction

When installing the outdoor unit of an air conditioner, there could be many constructional obstructions to account for. It could be a wall. It could be a fence. The general rule of thumb is to maintain a clearance distance of at least 2 ft. between the outdoor unit and the constructional obstruction.

What about placing the outdoor unit close to the window or the entry door of a room?

It’s fine, as long as the exhaust air, being vented out by the outdoor unit, does not enter the room. Long continuous hours of operation can cause the exhaust air to affect the indoor temperature of the room.

Clearance Requirements in Case of a Landscaping Obstruction

HVAC professionals, hired to perform air conditioner installation in Irving, TX should also take into account, the landscaping obstructions like shrubs, potted plants and long blade grass. Some homeowners prefer to install the outdoor unit close to a landscaping obstruction to give a visually non-obtrusive look. This should be avoided. Because, like constructional obstructions, landscaping objects can also restrict the flow of air across the outdoor unit of a split air conditioner. Trim any outgrowths and make sure that a you maintain a distance of at least 2 ft. between the outdoor unit and a landscaping obstruction.

Clearance Requirements in Case of a Mechanical Obstruction

Mechanical systems like kitchen exhaust vent, clothes dryer outlet vent and heating appliance outlet vent also present obstructive challenges to the flow of air. Not only that, but some mechanical systems like oil tank fill valve and gas vent carry fire hazards if the unit is installed in close proximity to either of these.  As such, a minimum distance of 4-8 ft. must be maintained between an outdoor unit and a mechanical system, and where possible, it is better to install the unit at a different location altogether.

Clearance Requirements Between Two Outdoor Units

When two outdoor units are placed too close to each other, they can end up competing for the air intake, which restricts the air flow to both. Moreover, there is also a high chance that a unit may end up taking in the warm air vented out by the other unit, which can seriously degrade its performance. HVAC professionals, performing air conditioner installation in Irving, TX for the first time, should maintain a minimum clearance distance of 4 ft. between two outdoor units.