As the scorching summer sunshine starts to fade and the relief of fall starts to settle in, residents of West Jefferson start preparing their homes and yards for the winter. For many, that leads to the question of whether they should cover their exterior air conditioning unit for the winter.
While it may seem like a smart idea, the fact is there are several 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 even cause problems.
Here, the specialists at West Jefferson Plumbing and Heating, Inc. 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
Exterior AC units are supposed to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the wintertime. These systems are built with solid materials and components that can handle the outdoor elements without damage. The coils and fins of the unit are engineered to resist corrosion, and the housing is designed to protect the internal parts 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 produces the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to spread.
Mold and mildew not only have a bad smell, but they can also pose health risks, especially for household residents with respiratory issues or allergies. Plus, the unwanted moisture can corrode the internal components of the AC unit.
Rather than covering the unit, instead provide 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
People aren’t the only ones who make plans for winter. Animals that live around your home are also looking for a warm, cozy place to hide out for the cold months. For many creatures, a covered air conditioner is the perfect winter refuge.
Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats frequently make winter dens inside covered air conditioners. Animals dwelling in a covered AC unit can cause many problems. Rats 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 obstruct airflow and ventilation, decreasing the efficiency of the appliance and potentially causing it to overheat. In addition, animal waste can result in unsanitary conditions and bad odors.
Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps deter animals, because an uncovered AC provides less shelter from the elements than a covered unit. That’s better for your cooling system—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 it's better that you don't cover your air conditioner in the winter is because a cover blocks airflow through the unit. Proper airflow is crucial for the AC system because it helps with heat exchange and allows the unit to cool effectively. When airflow is reduced, the system has to work harder to maintain the desired temperature, leading to increased energy consumption and strain on the components.
In addition, if you run your AC without realizing that the outside unit is covered or because you simply forgot, it could result in a range of problems. One issue is that the absence of correct airflow could cause the compressor to overheat, resulting in its failure or damage. That’s why it is essential to ensure the outdoor unit has no blockages and is not covered to maintain the best possible airflow.
5. AC Maintenance Works Better Than Covering Your Air Conditioner
The bottom line is, it's a lot more effective to do a little maintenance for your air conditioner than to cover your outside AC unit.
There are a number of key maintenance activities you should prioritize to ensure maximum performance and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s a good idea to inspect your outdoor AC unit regularly and pull out any debris such as leaves, sticks and dirt to promote 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 hinder efficient heat exchange or airflow.
Routine air conditioning maintenance not only boosts efficiency, but it also helps extend the unit's life span, reduces energy consumption and avoids costly repairs. Rather than using a cover, committing time and effort into routine air conditioning maintenance is a proactive strategy that can significantly benefit your entire HVAC system in the long run.