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8 Safe Ways to Hide Your Outside AC Unit

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The perks of central air conditioning can’t be denied during a heat spell. But when it’s time to go outside and enjoy the sunshine, that unsightly AC condenser might be killing your vibes.

Your outdoor AC unit is essential for keeping your home cool, but it doesn’t need to be in plain view. Here are some ways you can hide the air conditioner sitting outside your home.

Follow our clearance guidelines to make sure that your new pleasing aesthetic doesn’t hurt AC performance. And build on the ideas we share here for your own spin on blending your air conditioner into your home’s exterior.

AC unit surrounded by shrubs

Plant Hedges or Small Trees

You can plant a row of quickly-growing evergreens or annuals around the edge of your outdoor air conditioner to create a natural screen. Just be sure to check the manufacturer’s recommendations for clearance around the condenser before you start digging, and avoid damaging any wires or tubing, going into your home.

Remember that sticks and leaves can fall into your AC condenser housing. To keep everything running smoothly, just clear out this debris every once in a while. And don’t forget an annual AC tune-up for a serious clean each year.

Flower pots on deck

Use Pots & Planters

Another approach to create a natural atmosphere while hiding your HVAC hardware is to put potted plants and shrubs around your unit. Use tall plants that hide the condenser unit and construct a wall of planters that suits the look of your home.

If there’s no real estate to plant greenery in the ground to block your AC, this is another natural way to get natural-looking coverage. Again, be mindful of breaking twigs and falling fauna—these things might clog up your condenser housing and reduce its cooling effectiveness.

Wood composite fence

Put Up a Fence

If you want to build a picket fence to obscure an outdoor air conditioner unit, make sure it’s slightly taller than the unit. You can also paint or stain the fence to match your house trim or siding.

It’s important to choose a fence design that offers some airflow in order to increase your air conditioner’s performance; slats or lattice designs will allow for sufficient air supply.

Trellis enclosed on 3 sides

Construct a Trellis

A trellis is a framework designed to support hanging vines or small plants. Trellises come in all shapes and sizes and can be made from wood, metal, or plastic.

Put a trellis in front of the outdoor air conditioner unit so it’s blocked from your view. Hang small plants or flowers, or train climbing vines to cover it. Clematis, trumpet vine, and morning glory are all fast-growing vines that will quickly cover a trellis and mask your AC unit.

Yellow curtains hanging outside

Hang Curtains

Have an unsightly air conditioner unit outside your home? Try building a simple curtain around it to mask the eyesore.

It may not work for every exterior, but this can be done with materials you might already have lying around, such as PVC pipe and outdoor fabric. Just make sure there’s enough clearance around the unit for proper airflow, and that any curtains or drapes can’t accidentally blow onto the equipment and prevent airflow.

Metal box covering AC unit

Build a Custom Box

You can build a basic wooden box to enclose your outdoor air conditioner unit if you’re handy with woodworking. This not only conceals your AC equipment, but will also keep animals from nesting inside.

Keep in mind that you’ll occasionally need access to your condenser unit. As a result, make sure the container is detachable or accessible from certain angles. Also, make sure your outdoor AC box has slats or holes for ventilation.

Privacy screen

Use a Privacy Screen

A privacy screen can help you keep your outdoor air conditioner unit hidden, 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 on the market, or you could build your own. Angle a privacy screen towards the viewpoints that need it most.

Decorative birdbath surrounded by flowers in front of red guesthouse

Be Artistic & Crafty

Get crafty with planters and other containers to both cover and hide your outdoor air conditioner unit. You can use large pots, barrels, or wheelbarrows placed on their sides. Add outdoor art or sculptures. Or get really innovative and upcycle some old furniture into unique backyard decorations.

Just make sure there’s enough airflow around the unit for it to work properly. Also ensure that items are secured in the event of a storm. Even though the outer housing of your condenser does provide protection, impact from flying debris can still damage the cooling components.

Technician repairing AC unit

Be Creative, But Keep Some Clearance

Keep in mind that although you want your air conditioner to look nicer, you should never sacrifice efficiency or safety. With that said, make sure there’s enough clearance from the materials surrounding it so heat can disperse properly.

There needs to be a minimum of 12 inches on all sides and the top of your air conditioner for adequate airflow.

When not enough cool air circulates around the outdoor unit, condenser coils have a harder time releasing heat which then reduces how well your AC works inside…ultimately driving up energy bills. Even if you don’t conceal your air conditioner with fences or bushes, make sure trees and other structures (like a tool shed, maybe) are at least 1 foot away from the condenser.

Want to be sure your plan for hiding your big outdoor air conditioner is safe? Request an AC tune-up from Action Furnace and have one of our experts make sure your unit is running right. They’ll optimize the performance of your cooling system while also ensuring that a fence, curtain, or custom-made AC box is HVAC-friendly.

Written by Ryan Tutak

Ryan is considered one of Calgary's most knowledgeable residential HVAC specialists. Working in the industry for over 12 years, he's helped thousands of homeowners with their heating and cooling systems. Outside of running Calgary's most reputable HVAC business, you can find him on the Golf course practicing his short game or traveling with his family. His main goal is to create a positive collaborative culture, one in which his employees are excited to come in and are motivated to work hard. He spends the majority of his day working directly with Home Comfort Advisors, Service and Maintenance Technicians, and Customer Service Representatives ensuring they are fully prepared to lead the Home Service Industry in Customer Service.

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