* Cottonwood Trees ... Good & Bad *


We grew up in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas where there are plenty of Cottonwood trees. You may have seen them in other states, from Virginia to California, but they are particularly plentiful in the Plains States. Cottonwoods are normally quite large trees, and provide lots of wonderful shade in the heat of the sometimes humid summer. CottonwoodSeedAdult Cottonwood trees stand from 60 to 100 feet tall, with a 60-100 foot canopy spread and trunk diameter up to 5 or 6 feet. The female trees produce a cottony covered seed that is carried by the wind. During the months of May and June, the air around Cottonwood trees is often filled with an amazing amount of the white fluffy stuff, making it look like a light snow flurry of very large flakes.

While the shade of the Cottonwood tree can be very welcome, and the trees themselves quite majestic, the cottony seeds can be hazardous for air conditioning equipment! Note the picture on the right of the condenser coils on an RV basement ac/heat pump unit. The accumulation can be very rapid and thick during the height of "cotton" season. The accumulation on the unit pictured was the result of less than 24 hours. When it gets this thick, it can be gently peeled off almost like removing a light blanket. If allowed to remain, and to continue to build up, the efficiency of the ac unit would be affected. If Cottonwoodseverely blocked, it could eventually cause mechanical failure of the ac unit. Note that great care must be taken in removing the cotton blanket to ensure the condenser fins are not bent or damaged. If the accumulation will not peel off as in this picture, a very fine brush might need to be used or perhaps the brush attachment on a vacuum cleaner ...taking care again not to physically contact and bend the condenser fins.

HERE'S THE WARNING!! ...because the RVP Coleman basement unit in this picture pulls air inward through the condenser unit and exhaust air goes out the bottom, it is easy to see when the unit is becoming plugged, and is relatively easy to clean. HOWEVER, most home units and RV rooftop units pull through a separate intake, and then blow it OUTWARD through the condenser. If that is the case, it is impossible to see when the condenser fins are blocked unless you remove the cover of the unit to look inside ...and it is also more difficult to clean. But if you are visiting in Cottonwood country during "cotton shedding" season around May and June, it is very important that you pay attention to this little need for maintenance.

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