How much clearance is needed around an air conditioner?
Tuesday, April 21, 2020
The standard recommendation for clearances around an air conditioning condenser (outdoor unit) are: minimum one foot at sides, except two feet away from any solid wall, and five feet open above. These are the minimums, and more is always better. A condenser must suck lots of air in through the sides of the unit and exhust it out the top to efficiently remove the heat from its coils. Anything that obstructs air flow also decreases performance, and that means a higher electric bill.
Fencing used to conceal a condenser should hold to the same two foot minimum as a solid wall. Also, if you plant foliage around the condenser, be sure to trim it way further than the one foot standard because it grows back quickly, especially in Florida.
While all of these dimensions are simply recommendations, there is one clearance spec that is required by code. The National Electrical Code [NEC 110.26(A)] specifies a clear area for the service side of the unit that is 30” wide and 36” deep, so a service person can safely access the electrical components. This only applies to the service side(s) of the condenser.
And it’s sometimes overlooked that the side clearance applies to two condensers that are side-by-side too.
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To learn more about heating and air conditioning systems, see these other blog posts:
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