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When progressing through the steps required to purchase and install a brand-new air-conditioning unit, AC condenser pads are one of the most important things you will need to consider. However, despite their importance, they’re easy to overlook. In normal operation, you may never need to think much about your pad. However, that’s only true when you make smart choices at the start of the process.


A safe place for the outdoor unit of your air conditioner to sit, these pads provide stability and other benefits for your unit to ensure it can operate correctly for many years to come. However, not all pads are the same, and there is some confusion out there about why you need to invest in a high-quality pad installation. Here are the most important things to know about these.


What Are AC Condenser Pads? Why Do You Need Them?


The condenser is where much of the action takes place in an air conditioning unit, and it needs to be outside because it releases heat into the environment. It cannot simply sit on the ground, however. Not only would there be a wide variety of risks to the equipment, such as pooling water during rainstorms or corrosion from contact with the soil, but it would cause other issues, too. A condenser must be kept level and steady to ensure proper operation throughout the cooling cycle. To achieve the safety and stability necessary, contractors install AC condenser pads to provide a slightly elevated and level platform for placing the unit.


Traditionally a small concrete pad poured in place or produced off-site and then installed; the pad is usually placed at a location where the condenser will not be a noise nuisance for the occupants. With the right installation, your pad is usually a one-time concern. In other words, once you’ve had a pad placed on your property, it will probably be suitable for most similarly sized units you may choose to upgrade to in the future.


What else should you know about pads besides their basic purpose? Let’s consider how to choose the right pad for your property.


How Big Should My Pad Be?


Choosing a pad of the right size is important, and you’ll need to consider both the actual area of the pad and its ground clearance, too. Generally, it would help if you aimed for a pad that is at least 3 inches thick, which will keep your unit well-elevated from the ground. However, you might choose to go even higher, up to six inches, based on the rainfall in your area and the drainage on your property. The other dimensions of the pad should correspond to the size of your exterior unit, up to 3 feet by 3 feet or larger. Aim to leave some clearance around the edges of the pad as well.


Concrete Pads, or New and Special Materials?


Concrete has traditionally been the material of choice due to its longevity and durability, and many homes still use concrete pads poured decades ago. However, today, you can purchase pads on your own and install them before the arrival of your condenser unit. Made from materials such as recycled plastic or special UV-resistant materials, these pads are lighter-weight, easier to handle on a DIY basis and provide the same level of stability and clearance that you would get from concrete. Which should you choose?


The decision is ultimately up to you, although you may ask your HVAC contractor for advice specific to your property. In most cases, if you choose a pad that can support the weight of your unit entirely, you can select whatever solution is the most cost-effective for your needs. Newer materials can be more environmentally friendly while also standing up to some of the challenging conditions the pad will face outdoors.


What Happens If My Pad Becomes Damaged?


In rare cases, you may notice that your pad is losing its integrity, or the ground beneath it may begin to shift. In these scenarios, do not try to move the condenser unit or repair the pad on your own. Avoid the safety risks that would accompany such an effort. Instead, call a trusted professional team to assess the problem and provide you with a solution.


Find a Contractor to Help You Understand Pad Requirements


In some instances, local municipalities dictate the dimensions of AC condenser pads through city codes. To understand the requirements, you may face or find help understand pad options, connect with a preferred air conditioner installer, and get quick answers to these tricky questions. With the right pad in place, you can trust in the long-term stability of your exterior unit and more reliable AC operation over time.