The Ant and the Air Conditioner

This may sound like the title of one of Aesop’s Fables, or a tale reminiscent of the proverbial ant and the rubber-tree plant. But, it is true: ants can cause service problems and seriously shorten the life expectancy of your air conditioner equipment. Let’s look first at the damage they do, and then talk about some simple preventative steps.

One of the things we admire about ants is their constant work as they carry things about to build their nests and feed their families. In South Florida, huge nests pop up in even the most well-groomed lawns and planted areas. Condensing units on the ground should be mounted on a concrete ‘housekeeping pad’ designed to keep dirt and grass at some distance from the equipment. This deters ants from building nests inside the air conditioner, as there is not a ready supply of building materials.

However, if the concrete pad has sunk into the ground or mulch and debris is allowed to build up around the unit, the tiny titans are all too happy to use your air conditioner as part of their nesting structure. Service technicians often find great piles of sand inside air conditioners. This sand clogs coils and restricts airflow, but also retains moisture in the unit after a rain (your unit is built with drain holes so rainwater will run out the bottom). Moisture, combined with the salt in the air, and chemicals excreted by the ants create a very corrosive mixture that will deteriorate steel equipment panels, aluminum coils, and even lead to refrigerant leaks over time. Research has shown:

Ant-nest corrosion is a specific type of premature failure (2-3 months) of copper tubes used in air-conditioning units causing the loss of refrigerant liquid and the consequent environment pollution. It is known that attack requires the simultaneous presence of moisture, oxygen and a corrodent, usually an organic acid, such as formic, acetic, propionic or butyric acid or other volatile organic substances like methanol, ethanol, formaldehyde or acetoaldehyde.Approximately 10% of all premature failures of copper tubes used in the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) industry are the result of ant-nest corrosion. 

As a homeowner, in order to be proactive in the war against these tiny titans, you can do the following:

  • Keep shrubs and hedges trimmed at least 1 foot away from your air conditioner
  • Use a hose or broom to remove leaves and sand accumulated on the concrete pad
  • Have you pest control service apply an approved insecticide in the area

An appropriately scheduled maintenance program will extend the life of your system and will allow you and your family to breath clean air throughout the year.

Subscribe to a Comfort Club membership with Complete Comfort Air Conditioning and Heating to help extend the life of your equipment and keep your unit well-maintained all year round.

Call us at (561) 529-6262