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Keeping Your Cool Without Sacrificing Your Landscaping: Tips For Hiding That Unsightly Compressor

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In areas where the climate is hot, central air conditioning units are a standard sight in backyards. Although they're a key part of keeping your house comfortable in the intense heat, the compressor unit itself is far from an asset to your landscape. If you like using your backyard for entertaining and parties, you might find that you'd rather not have the air conditioning unit in the midst of it all. Here are some tips to help you hide that unsightly case without interfering with its operation.

Planting Around the Pad

Most of the external air conditioning units are installed on a concrete pad outside of your home. You can help to shield the landscape disruption by adding some climbing vines around the perimeter of that concrete pad. Install a trellis system to enclose three sides of the air conditioner, leaving a foot or two between the trellis and the edge of the concrete pad. That allows for air circulation space.

Plant climbing vines on the outside of the trellis structures. The vines will grow up the outside of the trellis, covering the structure and hiding the air conditioning unit. Vines such as Star Jasmine are great for this. In addition to the vines, you may find that you like the look of ornamental grass. Choose a grass variety that grows tall to provide some low cover for the base of the structure, and plant it just beyond the vines on the outside of the trellis. Skip the mulch in the planting bed, though. Use rocks instead so that you don't risk having mulch drawn into the compressor fan.

Be Selective About Your Irrigation

When you plant vines, grass or other greens for air conditioning cover, you'll need to make sure that they are watered sufficiently. Look for greens that don't need much water, or invest in drip irrigation so that you can keep the plant roots watered without getting the air conditioner wet. This keeps the compressor fan protected from the water without drying out the plants.

Fence it In

Instead of using greens and vines to cover your air conditioner, you may find that you prefer the use of a fence. You can install a decorative fence on three sides as long as you leave an open space on one side for sufficient air circulation, just as you would with climbing vines. Don't enclose the top of the structure, either. Covering the top will block air in, and may cause the entire system to overheat due to insufficient air flow. The whole structure relies on air flow for cooling the fan and the compressor.

Also, as you design your decorative fence, make sure that the structure leaves a couple of feet on either side of the concrete pad. You'll need this added space for accessibility, because your HVAC technician will need to be able to access the unit for air conditioning repair and service on a regular basis.

If you want to make the fence enclosure really unique, think about adding a personal touch and making the most of the structure. Build a barrier wall around the unit using wooden slats or pallets if you want a rustic look. If you use pallets to cover the space, you can even create a vertical garden inside the pallets. Another alternative is to create a cottage-like enclosure with sides crafted tall enough that you can paint them to resemble a roof line. That provides you with the look of a complete cottage without covering the top of the structure.

With so many different options for covering air conditioning systems, it's no wonder some homeowners are looking to camouflage their compressors. With the tips presented here and the help of an HVAC tech for consultation, you can create a cover for your air conditioner to transform the look of your backyard.