As the scorching summer sun starts to fade and the relief of fall starts to settle in, residents of Mount Hope start preparing their homes and yards for the winter. For many, that leads to the question of whether they need to cover their exterior air conditioning unit for the winter.
While it may seem like a smart idea, the reality is there are many reasons why you shouldn’t cover your AC unit in the winter. Along with not being needed, covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment can actually cause problems.
Here, the professionals at Appalachian Heating share five reasons why covering your AC doesn’t need to be on your fall to-do list and what you should do instead.
1. Your AC Unit Isn’t Damaged by Snow
Outside AC units are supposed to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the wintertime. These units are built with durable materials and hardware that can handle the outdoor elements without damage. The coils and fins of the unit are constructed to resist corrosion, and the housing is manufactured to protect the internal elements from moisture and debris.
2. Covering Your Air Conditioner Can Cause Mold
One of the reasons you shouldn’t cover your AC unit in the wintertime is because doing so can trap moisture—which is not at all what you want in your outdoor unit. That’s because sealing moisture inside the unit creates the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to spread.
Mold and mildew not only have an undesirable odor, but they can also present health risks, especially for individuals with respiratory issues or allergies. Plus, the unwanted moisture can corrode the internal components of the AC unit.
Instead of covering the unit, instead ensure proper drainage and keep the area around the unit cleared of debris, allowing for efficient airflow and preventing moisture buildup.
3. A Covered Air Conditioner Can Attract Animals
Humans aren’t the only ones who prepare for winter. Animals that live around your home are also looking for a warm, cozy place to hide out for the winter months. For many creatures, a covered air conditioner is an ideal winter refuge.
Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats often make nests inside covered air conditioners. Animals dwelling in a covered air conditioning unit can cause many problems. Mice can chew through wires, insulation and other connections, causing damage that may require costly repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to construct a warm and comfortable home can impair airflow and ventilation, reducing the efficiency of the AC and potentially causing it to overheat. In addition, animal waste can result in unsanitary conditions and bad odors.
Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps discourage wildlife, because an uncovered AC provides less shelter from the elements than a covered unit. That’s better for your air conditioner—and leaves you with less mess to clean up and things to repair once the snow melts.
4. Covering Your Air Conditioner Restricts Airflow
Another reason you shouldn't cover your air conditioning equipment in the winter is because a cover limits airflow through the unit. Proper airflow is vital for the AC system because it assists heat exchange and allows the unit to cool efficiently. When airflow is constrained, the system has to work harder to reach the desired temperature, leading to additional energy consumption and strain on the components.
In addition, if you turn on your AC without noticing that the exterior unit is covered or because you simply forgot, it could result in a range of problems. One issue is that the lack of appropriate airflow could cause the compressor to overheat, causing its failure or damage. That’s why it is crucial to ensure the outdoor unit has no blockages and is not covered to maintain optimal airflow.
5. AC Maintenance Works Better Than Covering Your Air Conditioner
The bottom line is, it's much more effective to do a little maintenance for your air conditioning unit than to cover your outside AC unit.
There are numerous key maintenance activities you should prioritize to ensure the best possible performance and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s wise to examine your outdoor AC unit regularly and remove any debris such as leaves, twigs and dirt to allow proper airflow. Second, examine and clean the coils, fins and filters to make sure you don't see any dirt and dust buildup that would prevent successful heat exchange or airflow.
Scheduled air conditioning maintenance not only boosts efficiency, but it also helps extend the unit's life span, reduces energy consumption and prevents costly repairs. Rather than using a cover, investing time and effort into routine air conditioning maintenance is a proactive plan of action that can greatly benefit your entire HVAC system in the long run.