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Safe, Beautiful Ideas for Hiding Your Outside Air Conditioner

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So you’re enjoying some summer refreshments in the backyard, the lawn is mowed, the trees are trimmed, and wait…the clunky, ugly outdoor air conditioner is in plain view.

Keeping your home cool and comfortable requires your indoor and outdoor air conditioner units to work together. But there are some aesthetically pleasing ways to cover that outdoor unit (the AC condenser) without sacrificing your cooling power.

Check out these fun (safe!) ways to hide your outdoor AC unit. And make sure to read our rules for air conditioner clearance to keep your system running smooth.

AC hiding behind shrubs

Plant a Hedge

A line of fast-growing evergreens or annuals planted around the perimeter of your outdoor air conditioner will soon fill in to create a natural screen. Check the manufacturer’s recommendations for air conditioner condenser clearance before you dig, and make sure not to damage any existing roots when you plant.

It’s also worth noting that sticks and leaves can fall into your AC condenser housing. Make sure to clear this debris periodically to keep your AC running its best. An annual AC tune-up is a good idea for getting a serious clean before the summer season starts. 

AC unit surrounded by plants.

Use Planter Boxes & Pots

Placing potted plants and shrubs around your unit is another way to create a natural feel while hiding your HVAC hardware. Use tall plants that hide the condenser unit and build a wall of planters that best suits the look of your home.

If you can’t plant greenery to block your AC, this is another way to achieve a natural look while hiding your condenser from plain view. Again, be conscious of breaking twigs and falling fauna—these things can clog your condenser housing and limit the AC’s cooling power.

Wooden fence covering AC unit.

Build a Fence

Picket fences are often used as garden borders, but they are also quite effective at hiding an outdoor air conditioner unit. For best results, build the fence so it’s slightly taller than the unit and paint or stain it to match your house trim.

Choose a design that offers some airflow to increase your air conditioner’s performance. Slats or lattice design will allow for sufficient air supply. 

Trellis built around AC unit.

Roll Out a Trellis

Trellises come in all shapes and sizes and can be made from wood, metal, or plastic. Place a trellis against the house near the outdoor air conditioner unit, and train climbing vines to cover it. Clematis, trumpet vine, and morning glory are all fast-growing vines that will quickly cover a trellis.

Curtain hanging from awning.

Hang a Curtain

A simple solution for hiding an outdoor air conditioner unit is to hang a curtain around it. This can be done with PVC pipe and outdoor fabric, or get creative and choose your own materials. Be sure to leave enough clearance around the unit for proper airflow and ensure that curtains or drapes don’t blow into or on top of the equipment.

Steel box covering AC unit.

Build an AC Box

If you’re handy with woodworking, you can build a simple wooden box to enclose your outdoor air conditioner unit. This will not only hide the unit, but also protect it from the elements and keep critters from nesting inside.

Keep in mind that you’ll occasionally need access to your condenser unit. So make sure that the box can be removed or that it can be opened from some angles.

And ensure your outdoor AC box has slats or holes to allow air to move in and out.

Outdoor screen

Hide it Behind a Screen

A privacy screen is a great way to hide an outdoor air conditioner unit, and these pieces can be adjusted and moved when you want to refresh your backyard design. There are many different types of privacy screens available, or you could build your own. Just be sure to leave enough clearance around the unit for proper airflow.

Many privacy screens are portable and can be placed at an angle to hide your condenser from the areas you like to lay back and relax outside.

Potted plants in front of AC unit.

Get Creative With Containers

Get creative with planters and other containers to cover and hide your outdoor air conditioner unit. Use large pots, barrels, or wheelbarrows placed on their sides. Or get really creative and upcycle some old furniture into unique planters. Just make sure there’s enough airflow around the unit for it to work properly.

And make sure that items that could damage your air conditioner in a windstorm are secured. The outer housing of your condenser does provide protection. But impact from flying furniture can still damage the cooling components.

Lee's technician performing maintenance check on AC unit.

Keep Your AC Flow Going

Remember that an aesthetic improvement on your outdoor AC unit should never come at the expense of efficiency. Make sure that your unit has enough clearance from the materials and structures you use to hide your condenser.

Any outdoor air conditioning equipment should have a minimum of 12 inches of clearance on all sides, including the top.

When not enough cool air passes by the outdoor equipment, the condenser does not disperse heat as efficiently, which is how AC units cool your indoor air. Lower condenser efficiency could lead to a hike in your energy bills.

So even if you’re not hiding your air conditioner with fences or shrubs, make sure that nearby trees and other structures (like a tool shed, maybe) stay 1 foot away from the unit.Want to make sure your idea for hiding your bulky outdoor air conditioner is a safe one? Call a specialist at Lee’s Air and have one of our technicians perform an AC tune-up on your equipment. They’ll optimize your cooling system’s performance and ensure a fence, curtain, or custom-made AC box is also HVAC-friendly.

Thomas Howard

Written by Thomas Howard

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