As the scorching summer heat starts to fade and the cooler temperatures of fall starts to settle in, residents of Greater Richmond start preparing their homes and yards for the the upcoming cold weather. For many, that leads to the question of whether they ought to cover their outdoor air conditioner for the winter.
While it may seem like a smart idea, the reality is there are a number of reasons why you shouldn’t cover your AC unit in the winter. In addition to not being necessary, covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment can actually cause problems.
Here, the specialists at Herman Allen Plumbing, Heating & Cooling share five reasons why covering your air conditioning equipment 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
Exterior AC units are built to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the winter. These machines are built with solid materials and components 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 components 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 cold months is because doing so can trap moisture—which is not at all what you want in your outdoor unit. That’s because trapping moisture inside the unit creates the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to spread.
Mold and mildew not only have an undesirable aroma, but they can also pose health risks, especially for individuals with respiratory issues or allergies. Additionally, the excess moisture can corrode the internal components of the AC unit.
Instead of covering the unit, instead make sure the unit has 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
You and your family aren’t the only ones who get ready for winter. Animals that live around your home are also searching for a warm, cozy place to crash for the wintry months. For many animals, a covered air conditioner is an awesome winter refuge.
Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats often make winter dens inside covered air conditioners. Animals living in a covered air conditioner can cause many problems. Rodents can chew through wires, insulation and other connections, causing damage that may require costly repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to create a warm and comfortable place to get out of the cold weather can impair airflow and ventilation, limiting the efficiency of the AC and potentially causing it to overheat. Additionally, animal droppings can result in unsanitary conditions and foul odors.
Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps discourage creatures, because an uncovered AC provides less shelter from chilly temperatures than a covered unit. That’s better for your air conditioner—and leaves you with less mess to pick up and things to repair in the spring.
4. Covering Your Air Conditioner Restricts Airflow
Another reason you shouldn't cover your air conditioning equipment in the winter is because a cover restricts airflow through the unit. Suitable airflow is vital for the AC system because it facilitates heat exchange and enables the unit to cool properly. When airflow is restricted, the system has to work harder to achieve the desired temperature, causing greater energy consumption and strain on the components.
In addition, if you use your AC without knowing that the exterior unit is covered or because you simply forgot, it could result in a range of problems. One issue is that the shortage of correct airflow could cause the compressor to overheat, leading to its failure or damage. That’s why it is essential to ensure the outdoor unit is always cleared of any blockages and is not covered to maintain maximum 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 several key maintenance activities you should prioritize to ensure maximum function and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s smart to examine your outdoor AC unit regularly and remove any debris such as leaves, sticks and dirt to allow proper airflow. Second, check and clean the coils, fins and filters to make sure they are free from dirt and dust buildup that would hinder successful heat exchange or airflow.
Routine air conditioning maintenance not only boosts efficiency, but it also helps extend the unit's life span, lowers energy consumption and avoids costly repairs. Rather than using a cover, putting time and effort into routine air conditioning maintenance is a proactive approach that can substantially benefit your entire HVAC system in the long run.