How Much Clearance Is Necessary Around an Outdoor AIR Conditioning Unit?

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How Much Clearance Is Necessary Around an Outdoor AC Unit?

Okay, so you’ve started making plans to replace your HVAC system. You already know what unit you are getting and where it’s going to go. While this might not be the most exciting addition to your home, it certainly is one of the most important for your overall comfort. One aspect of HVAC installation that might slip your mind is proper clearance. Read on to learn more about proper clearance levels for your outside unit.

Are you looking for a local Midlothian heating and air service? Dial One Johnson Plumbing, Cooling and Heating are here to help with any of your HVAC maintenance needs. Whether it’s an emergency repair or routine service, reach out today at 469-518-2809.

Start With a Site Inspection

Before you start with selecting an air conditioning system, it’s always important to have an HVAC specialist come and do a site inspection. This helps them take a full assessment of the area, paying attention to the environment and the conditions where the outside unit will call home. In this inspection, your HVAC technician will always include special considerations for clearance. If your inspector fails to make any mention of clearance, always ask. It’s better to ask questions than deal with a clearance issue down the road.

The inspection will also give your HVAC contractor the opportunity to scope out other potential issues you might have with placing your outside unit in that area. This might include considerations for installation or for just preparation of the site before they start work.

Keep in mind that while most HVAC specialists will always do a check for clearance, some more inexperienced contractors might leave it out. That’s why you should always ask about clearance before the installation process begins.

Understanding the Importance of Proper Clearance Distances

So, why is clearance so important anyway? What will happen if your AC unit doesn’t have the space it needs? Well, for your HVAC system to work properly, it needs room to breathe. Proper airflow is an essential component to keeping things running smoothly, and poor airflow is a common problem with household AC units. Obstructed airflow can cause undue stress on some very important parts. These include the air compressor and condenser, among other components.

Additionally, proper clearance is necessary to keep your system running efficiently. If you don’t have the clearance you need, your system could perform poorly. Often this leads to not enough cooling power and even more power consumption. 

Easy to Use Spacing Guidelines

Generally speaking, you’ll want to make sure you’ve got at least a foot of clearance on all sides of your outside unit. This will depend on your particular unit, though. Some units will require almost two feet of clearance for proper operation. While you can find this information easily with the manufacturers, you can always consult your local HVAC Midlothian expert.

They are the best to call on when it comes time to replace your AC. Not only do they sport the experience necessary to get the job done right, but they can lead you away from poor decisions that could haunt you in the long run.

Types of Obstructions to Watch Out For

Clearance is one part of the equation, obstructions are the other. To make sure that your system has the space it needs to run well, be sure to be on the lookout for anything that might cause obstructed airflow. While your HVAC contractor should be aware of all these issues, it’s never a bad idea to educate yourself on what to be looking for when it comes to possible obstructions.


Outlets that come through the wall like kitchen exhaust vents and dryer outlet vents fall into this category. When you place your outside unit too close to obstructions like this, they can present challenges to the proper flow of air into the system. 


You might think it’s a clever idea to push some bushes up close to your outside unit to hide it from view. While effective, any kind of landscaping put too close to the condenser unit can easily cause obstructions. This can come in the form of broken twigs and leaves clogging your system.


Construction obstructions include things like fences and walls. If you happen to be installing your outside unit near an obstruction like this, make sure to add an extra foot to the clearance guidelines in your owner’s manual. If the unit is near a door or window, just make sure that the exhaust for the condenser doesn’t go right into your home.

Other Clearance Considerations

While common obstructions like landscaping and construction are fairly obvious, a few other obstructions should also be on your mind. If you’re worried about clearance issues, make sure to contact your HVAC Midlothian expert to come by and do an inspection. They are the best to rely on when clearance for your unit comes into question.

Other obstructions to worry about:

  • Heat Pump — While not all homes have heat pumps, if yours does, you should make sure you have plenty of clearance between it and your outside unit.
  • Space for Second Unit — Having two units close to each other may cause some issues when both are competing for the same air for proper operation. Most HVAC specialists recommend clearance of at least four feet between units.
  • Top Clearance — In most cases, topside clearance won’t be an issue. If you happen to be in one of those special circumstances, give your unit at least 60 inches of top clearance to ensure you’ve got enough space for proper airflow.

Looking for Quality Services for HVAC Repair?

Are you on the hunt for quality Midlothian heating and air services? Dial One Johnson Plumbing, Cooling and Heating is here to help. Our HVAC specialists have been serving the area for years and can come by and fix your AC problems quickly, efficiently and at a fair price.

Our team is always ready to help with any HVAC-related problem. To schedule an appointment, reach out online.


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