How Much Clearance Should You Keep Around Your HVAC Equipment and Why

hvac clearanceYour HVAC unit is not just a crucial part of your home’s infrastructure – it’s also a pricey one. Keeping it operating correctly can maximize its lifespan. Fortunately, some simple steps can help, including maintaining proper space around it.

How Much Clearance Does My HVAC Equipment Need?

Both heat pumps and air conditioning condensers/compressors need proper airflow to operate correctly. Insufficient, or worse, blocked airflow means the equipment runs hotter, which increases operating costs, decreases energy efficiency, and can shorten the lifespan of your equipment over time.

A heat pump or HVAC unit should have a clearance space of at least two to three feet around them horizontally. If necessary, one foot is the absolute minimum clearance space.

That said, always follow the installation instructions for your HVAC model. Another reason for following the recommended clearance space instead of the bare minimum is because it makes it easier for a technician to service the unit and perform maintenance.

For additional protection and optimal efficiency, keep two other tips in mind. First, think about what’s above your HVAC unit, especially in terms of plants. Even if tree branches are more than 5 feet above the unit, falling leaves can be a problem. The same holds for trees close enough for their leaves to blow into the unit’s vents. Evergreen trees and bushes that keep their needles or foliage all year long are a better choice.

A shady spot is also best for efficient performance. The hot sun will cause the unit to use more power. Partial shade is better than nothing if the complete shade isn’t available. Consult the Department of Energy’s energy-saver landscaping guide for more details.

How Much Clearance Do You Need Above a Heat Pump?

When talking about clearance, most people think horizontally, and however, vertical space is just as important. The recommended vertical clearance space is five feet from any overhanging branches, building structures, etc.

Is It Okay to Put a Fence Around an AC Unit?

Yes, putting a fence around an AC unit is fine – so long as horizontal space clearances are maintained. A fence can help protect it from damage from lawnmowers. Depending upon the fence, it can protect the unit from mud, which increases energy consumption by 30 percent because the condenser coil has to work harder when covered by mud. Consider a stone or paver border for protection if you can’t install a fence around your AC unit. It can even be decorative depending upon the design selected, such as all stone or stone mulch surrounded by a border of stone or pavers.

Call Tragar for All of Your HVAC Needs

When it’s time for an HVAC system maintenance or upgrade, call the experts at Tragar Home Services. We offer extensive services for oil heat and gas heat systems. Our parent company, Tragar, has been keeping Nassau County and Suffolk County residents comfortable for more than 60 years, installing and maintaining air conditioning and furnaces. For information about heating system upgrades or scheduling a COD oil delivery, call Tragar Express today at (516) 221-2559. You can also email us at