Is It Safe to Leave Your Gree Air Conditioner Running While on Vacation?

Safe to Leave Your Gree Air Conditioner Running While on Vacation

Before leaving the house for a vacation or any other extended period, most homeowners take precautionary measures to ensure friends and neighbors look after their home in their absence. You may have thought about asking them to take care of your pets, collect your mail, or keep an eye on your potted plants, but what about your air conditioner?

If you own a Gree mini split system, follow these recommendations to prepare your air conditioner to operate safely while you’re on your vacation. 

Why Not Turn It Off?

Although you might think that the simplest solution is turning your AC off and switching it back on after returning, this is typically not the case. Even if you plan to leave for an extended period, turning your air conditioning system off carries several risks that will, in the long run, cost you more than what you would have saved on energy bills.

Although your Gree mini split system is an excellent way to control the temperature in your house, it also performs other functions vital to indoor air quality, such as air recirculation and removing humidity.

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Turning your system off disables all three of these functions. Your house’s interior atmosphere will no longer be temperature or humidity controlled, and the air will no longer circulate.

Additionally, mini splits are designed for continuous function, so they’re naturally efficient. Turning your system off may seem like a great way to save money, but it may not function as expected once you return and switch it on again.

Your system may need to work harder to bring the temperature and humidity back to normal levels. Exposure to fluctuating temperatures while offline may also reduce its efficiency.

using handle to open home door

Risks during the winter

During the colder months, such as fall and winter, sufficiently low temperatures expose your water lines and your mini split system to freezing risks. If left unchecked, your house and mini split system are at risk of developing:

  • Clogged condensate lines, resulting in frozen water in the pipes
  • Frost on the evaporator coils, blocking heat absorption and interfering with air recirculation
  • Damaged or burst pipes

Experiencing any of these issues exposes your mini split units to accelerated wear and tear, shortening your unit’s lifespan and increasing the risk of repairs or replacement.

Risks associated with humidity

Leaving your mini splits off for extended periods may elevate the humidity levels inside your home, creating the conditions necessary for mold, bacteria, and other allergens to develop inside the unit. Although this phenomenon is more common during the hotter months, it can happen year-round.

Excessive humidity puts your mini split at risk of developing the following problems:

  • Unpleasant indoor odors, reminiscent of a gym bag or old cheese, known in the HVAC world as dirty sock syndrome
  • Mold growing inside the unit 
  • Excessive amounts of condensation on or around the unit
  • Allergens in the air, which may cause health issues (e.g., headaches, respiratory problems, irritated eyes)

If left unchecked for extended periods, mold and bacteria continue growing, putting your house at risk of sustaining more severe damage, such as swollen doors, bulging walls, or cracking wood and composite floors.

tips to prepare your air conditioner

Tips to Keep Your Mini Splits Running in Winter

Before leaving for a vacation, especially during the winter months, take these steps to prepare your air conditioner for safe and efficient operation in your absence. 

Close all windows and check for air leaks.

Your mini splits cannot control the indoor temperature and humidity levels if the house has open windows. Check all windows and exterior doors and ensure they are properly closed before leaving.

If you want to conduct a more thorough check, you can verify whether your house is leaking air through cracks or openings. Air leaks depressurize the interior of a home and cause drafts. In turn, they decrease your mini split system’s efficiency and increase energy consumption.

Common locations for air leaks include the following areas:

  • Around doors and windows (check whether they rattle or move; this may indicate a gap or a crack)
  • Exterior corners of the house
  • Outdoor water faucets
  • Junctions between wall sidings and chimneys
  • Electrical outlets
  • Vents and ducting
  • Utility piping (e.g., gas, water, electricity, television, internet lines)
  • Baseboards
  • Behind insulation material
  • Attic doors and hatches
  • Gaps around wires, piping, foundations, mail slots, and other openings

The best way to detect and eliminate air leaks is to contact a professional HVAC company and conduct a pressurization test.

Keep your outdoor unit protected from snow.

As temperatures fall, your mini split system may be under additional strain. The colder it is outside, the more likely your unit will lose part of its heating capacity.

Your heat pump’s performance remains at optimal levels as long as the outdoor temperature is within a specific operating range. For example, a Gree 12,000 BTU mini split comes with a heat pump designed to operate between 5°F and 122°F. If the outdoor temperatures fall below 5°F, your pump gradually loses its heating capabilities and needs to work harder to keep your house warm.

gree heat pump performance range

Although there is little you can do to prevent ambient temperatures from falling too low, you should take steps to protect your outdoor unit from snow. Snow deposits may cause it to work harder or even clog the evaporator element, causing it to spend more energy for no additional heating. This extra energy goes to melting the snow instead of heating your home, resulting in higher electricity bills and reduced comfort.

Snow can come from the ground (rising snow levels) and above (directly falling onto your unit). Ensure your outdoor unit is installed on a mount or a wall at least two feet above the ground. Place a protective roof, porch, or cover over it for additional shelter. The roof should be sufficiently large to prevent snow from falling directly onto the unit and sucking it inside the compressor, but not so restrictive that it blocks or restricts airflow.

Before leaving, check there is no excessive snow buildup on or around your unit. Check that the roof provides adequate protection and airflow.

Clean your mini split systems.

If you plan to be away for two weeks or longer, consider inspecting your indoor and outdoor units. Before performing any cleaning or maintenance on your mini split system, you must turn it off to prevent any safety issues. Turn your system back on only after you’ve completed all cleaning and maintenance.

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Cleaning your indoor units

  1. After turning off your system, start by cleaning each mini split unit. Dampen a cloth with warm water, wipe each unit’s outer casing with it, and then wipe it again with a dry towel.
  2. Next, open each unit and extract the air filters to inspect them. Keeping your filters clean ensures your system runs at optimal efficiency even while you’re away.
  3. Cleaning your Gree air filters is easy; all you need is a hose or faucet and cold water. Use the water jet to clean out the dust, grime, debris, and other particles. If possible, use a soft water spray setting. Avoid using the vacuum cleaner or a brush; they may exert too much force on the filter, potentially tearing it.
  4. Once clean, let the filters dry naturally. Remember that it may take up to 8-10 hours to dry completely. You can accelerate the process with a hairdryer on the lowest possible heat setting. However, you must be careful to avoid damaging or burning the filters.
  5. After letting your filters dry out, reinstall them into their head units.

cleaning mini split unit

Cleaning your outdoor unit

  1. Obstructed outdoor units cannot pull in or blow out air as effectively as a clean unit. The system compensates for performance drops by spending more power, which results in higher energy consumption. To prevent this from occurring while on vacation, it is essential to clean your outdoor unit before leaving.
  2. Inspect your outdoor unit for debris, particles, leaves, twigs, garbage, and other foreign objects. Remove all debris surrounding the outdoor unit, including those stuck on the compressor fan grid. Start with any elements and debris you can remove by hand, and then use a cloth dampened with water and soap to wash the outer casing and clean the rest off.
  3. Unscrew the fan grill or cage to access the fan blades, and then clean each separately. Use a large brush to scrub the grille and clean the fan blades with a damp cloth, soap, and water. Do not use a high-pressure water jet or a vacuum, and be careful while wiping the fan blades. They are relatively fragile and not intended for rough handling.
  4. Inspect the outdoor unit’s condensate pan and rinse it with water. If any dark-colored spots have begun growing on the surface, it may be mold. Mix a bleach solution (1 cup bleach into 1 gallon of water) and use it to clean the condensate pan.
  5. After cleaning the fan grille, fan blades, and condensate pan, dry them off by wiping them with a dry towel. You may now reinstall the condensate pan and replace the grille.

Enable freeze guard mode.

All Gree mini split systems, regardless of size or model range, come standard with a special energy-saving temperature control mode called Freeze Guard Mode. This includes the E-TAC and U-Zone.

Freeze Guard Mode is Gree’s mini split freeze protection system, designed to be activated before a long-term absence or a vacation. When set to Freeze Guard mode, your mini split automatically configures its own thermostat to 46°F. This temperature setting is fixed and is non-programmable; you cannot change it to a different value.

46°F is a low-temperature, high-efficiency setting designed to maximize energy savings while keeping the indoor temperature high enough to prevent the water lines from freezing and causing damage to your unit. It will activate if the indoor temperature falls under 40°F, gradually heating each zone back to the target 46°F.

Activating Freeze Guard mode may vary depending on your unit’s model range and capacity. For example, if your unit is a Gree 30,000 BTU air conditioner and your model range is U-Match, you can turn to Freeze Guard mode in one of the following ways:

  • Control panel: Press the Function button until the Freeze Guard mode symbol is highlighted, and then press Enter once to activate it and once more to deactivate it.
  • Remote: Set the remote to Heat mode, and then press the TEMP and CLOCK buttons simultaneously to activate Freeze Guard mode. If done correctly, you should see a symbol resembling a dollar sign in a circle ($) and the thermostat setting changing to 46°F. Press TEMP and CLOCK simultaneously again to turn Freeze Guard mode off.
  • Gree+ App: If your Gree mini split model is Wi-Fi capable and connected to your Gree+ application, you can activate Freeze Guard mode remotely from your smartphone or smart-tablet.

hand remote controlling mini split unit

Once enabled, Freeze Guard mode possesses two safety and convenience features: Automatic multi-zone configuration and a Memory/Power Failure Recovery function.

If you own a Gree multi-zone system, automatic multi-zone configuration means that once you have activated Freeze Guard mode on one unit, all other connected units automatically switch to Freeze Guard mode as well. You do not need to manually set all indoor units in your dual-zone, tri-zone, or quad-zone setup.

Memory/Power Failure Recovery is a safety mechanism that engages when a unit with Freeze Guard mode enabled loses power. As soon as power is restored, your Gree mini split system will remember its last system setting was Freeze Guard mode and re-enable this mode during the automatic restart procedure.

Memory/Power Failure Recovery works regardless of the causes behind power loss: weather-induced power failure, severed power lines, brownouts, or manual power-off. However, it will not function if the power cannot return to the house. Consider installing a surge protector to protect your mini split system from the potential damages of a power failure.

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Keep Control of Your Home’s Comfort While You’re Away

Following these operational tips and maintenance tricks will be all you need to keep your home’s indoor atmosphere under control even while you’re on vacation. If possible, take advantage of the extra convenience that a Wi-Fi-enabled Gree mini split system can give you.

You can use the Gree+ mobile application to control your house’s temperature, including enabling Freeze Guard mode before you leave and disabling it when you’re on your way back home.

ComfortUp is a Florida-based provider of high-quality single-zone and multi-zone mini split HVAC systems. We are the #1 online reseller of Gree products, with extensive inventory and over 500 shipping locations nationwide. Visit our online store and browse our selection today.

 

Image Credits

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