A central air-conditioner unit makes summer tolerable in our homes, but the outside condenser and compressor are ugly ducklings in your landscape. What are the best ways to mask that big, noisy machine sitting beside your house?
Aesthetics and protection of air-conditioner unit
The outside part of an air-conditioning system consists of an intricate grid of metal fins called the condenser, a compressor and a fan, all housed in a vented metal box sitting on a concrete pad. Your motivation to hide the unit may be cosmetic, but you also will be protecting these critical parts and extending their lives. The condenser coils are delicate and need to be protected from flying debris kicked up by mowers and/or string trimmers as well as other assaults.
Room to breathe
Outdoor air-conditioning units require unrestricted airflow to function properly. Any structure or landscaping screen built around them must have a clearance of two to three feet or else be slatted. You also want sufficient space to allow a service technician to access the unit for maintenance and repair. The covering cannot enclose the space immediately over the top of the unit.
Made in the shade
To operate efficiently, an outdoor air-conditioning unit should be installed on the side of the house where it will receive the least direct sunlight in summer. If your unit still receives lots of summer sun, consider making your screen tall and positioning it so as to provide some shade.
You can be really creative with your camoflauge. Exterior air-conditioning units can be hidden and protected with rustic wood slatted coverings, dry stacked blocks, wood or masonry walls, picket or wrought iron fences, or a garden shed-like covering that doubles as a storage space for light tools. Even a latticework screen, especially with a vine shrub growing on it, combines cover, aesthetics and sufficient airflow. Some of these choices will also mute the sound of the unit.
A hedge of boxwoods, holly bushes or other robust shrubbery provides a good, green covering. Keep the hedges trimmed, don’t allow branches to grow into the condenser coils, and prevent leaves and twigs from falling inside the unit from the top.
To keep rain spatter from dirtying the coils, put a border of stone, gravel or mulch around the perimeter of the unit’s concrete pad. Once or twice a year, gently rinse the coils with a hose to keep them dust free.