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An air conditioner condenser is quite heavy. It isn’t something that we think about on a weekly or even yearly basis as homeowners. We buy our homes and the air condenser unit usually has some kind of concrete slab under it from a time long ago and far away.
So what do you do if it isn’t level anymore? Or it isn’t structurally sound? What if you are getting a new condenser and don’t have any foundation at all? This article will discuss the in’s and out’s of purchasing an AC condenser pad and explain why you need one in the first place.
The Purpose of a Condenser Pad
As the air conditioning condenser vibrates with continual use on the same surface over a period of time, it can sink into the ground or cause damage to the unit. That is why everyone needs a good AC condenser pad to help support and contain the unit over time.
This expensive piece of equipment needs to be properly supported. To help the unit survive harsh winters or summers a quality waterproof pad is essential.
Condensers also accumulate water as it does its job making them weigh even more. This can put significant strain on the lines and tubes that run underneath the unit. It is crucial that the unit stay dry as well as level to extend the equipment’s lifespan and functionality. Whether you decide to go concrete or pre-fab, having some kind of support system is necessary.
Why Not Just Pour Concrete?
Concrete is the more traditional, tried-and-true way of stabilizing an AC condenser. What is most appealing about pouring concrete is how durable and permanent it can be. However, concrete’s biggest pro can also act as its biggest con.
Over time the weight of the unit can cause the concrete to settle deeper into the soil below. This could put a strain on the copper coolant tubes and electrical lines. While the unit itself may stay dry, it can become uneven and the sunken pad can take down or pull on pipes and lines in its path.
There are pre-fab concrete pads available, but some argue it is better to pour the concrete pad on site if you are going to use concrete at all. Constructing the pad requires building a frame, base, reinforcements, and pouring the concrete, but this can be well worth the effort. The more level and custom to the soil beneath the concrete slab is made, the better it can support the unit and the less it will sink over time. Pouring can lessen the chances of cracking due to stress or exposure to the elements.
While many HVAC old-timers stand by concrete as the best option, whether it be pre-fab or poured, it can have costly consequences in the long run if it does sink. Also, it is harder to replace cracked or damaged concrete pads than a plastic one.
While plastic sounds like a cheaper, flimsier alternative to some, the material is actually much better equipped to absorb the vibrations from the unit. A pad may be made out of plastic, rubber, or recycled materials. A more pliable surface can last just as long as any concrete slab if installed properly. Newer air condenser units are becoming lighter all the time, making concrete a more obsolete choice.
What to Look For in a Pre-Fab Pad
Before purchasing a pre-fab pad, it is important to buy one that will meet your location and air conditioning condenser’s specific needs. Here are some factors you should consider before purchasing an AC condenser pad:
Zoning and Size
Before installing a pre-fab pad, be sure to check your town or city’s zoning codes. Some cities require you to have a 3” pad at minimum no matter the size of your unit. There will also be rules and regulations that pertain to where the unit can be placed in relation to the house in the yard. Placement and size of your pad may not be up to you; it may be regulated by your local zoning boards.
UV-resistant and Waterproof
It is important to keep in mind the different weather your pad will experience year-round before purchasing a condenser pad. Your pad should be UV-resistant and waterproof. No matter where you live the pad will be exposed to the sun’s UV rays for prolonged periods of time. UV rays can cause cracking and can be very hard on a regular plastic pad without protection. Any pad that is UV-resistant will additionally be waterproof.
What makes a pad durable? Look for a pad with ribbed surfaces to distribute weight evenly and help absorb the vibrations from the unit. Pads made from recycled plastic are not only UV resistant, but also won’t crack from too much rain exposure.
Plan for Proper Installation
No matter how great the pad you purchase might be, if it is installed incorrectly its functions can become moot. It is best to hire a professional to come install the pad properly to ensure that the unit is level and secure. A professional will also be familiar with local zoning laws and make sure everything is up to code.
Reviews of the Best Air Conditioner Condenser Pads
There’s not a whole lot of variety in pads. Let’s just take a quick look at a couple so you have an idea of sizes and what they’re like.
This plastic platform offers self-leveling ground support that doesn’t require inserts. It is a great valued platform for your air conditioning condenser as it is easy to install. It’s made of UV-resistant plastic. Be sure to check your local zoning laws before purchasing.
This DiversiTech pad is vacuum-formed and includes drain pans that are 2” in depth. This will keep the condenser unit and the surrounding area dry and the ground that the pad sits on from eroding. This model is a full inch thicker than the other condenser pad reviewed above for more cushion. Check with your local zoning laws before purchasing to make sure it’s compliant.
Whether you use concrete pre-fab, pour your own concrete, or purchase a plastic pad for your AC condenser unit, the most important thing is to keep the unit dry and level. Talk to an HVAC professional to see what pad will work best with your unit, property, and climate.
As units are manufactured to be lighter and pads are better engineered to absorb vibrations, ordering a condenser pad online becomes a more viable and affordable option for homeowners.