As the sweltering summer heat starts to fade and the relief of fall starts to settle in, residents of Lancaster start preparing their homes and yards for the winter. For many, that leads to the question of whether they need to cover their outside AC for the winter.
While it may seem like a great idea, in reality there are several reasons why you shouldn’t cover your AC unit in the winter. On top of not being something you need to do, covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment can actually cause problems.
Here, the specialists at Fairfield Heating & Cooling 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
Outdoor AC units are supposed to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the winter season. These systems are built with solid materials and parts that can handle the outdoor elements without damage. The coils and fins of the unit are specially developed 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 cold months is because doing so can trap moisture—which is not at all what you want in your outdoor unit. That’s because allowing moisture to collect inside the unit creates the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to thrive.
Mold and mildew not only have a bad odor, but they can also create health risks, especially for people with respiratory issues or allergies. Additionally, the trapped moisture can corrode the internal components of the AC unit.
Instead of 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 get ready 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 critters, a covered air conditioner is an ideal winter refuge.
Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats frequently make nests inside covered air conditioners. Animals residing in a covered air conditioner can cause many problems. Rats can chew through wires, insulation and other connections, causing damage that may require expensive repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to construct a warm and comfortable bed can impair airflow and ventilation, lowering the efficiency of the appliance and potentially causing it to overheat. In addition, animal excrement can result in unsanitary conditions and potent odors.
Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps dissuade creatures, because an uncovered AC gives them less shelter from cold weather than a covered unit. That’s better for your AC—and leaves you with less mess to pick up and things to repair once the snow melts.
4. Covering Your Air Conditioner Restricts Airflow
Another reason not to cover your air conditioning equipment in the winter is because a cover blocks airflow through the unit. Proper airflow is crucial for the AC system because it facilitates heat exchange and allows the unit to cool effectively. When airflow is reduced, the system has to work harder to maintain the desired temperature, resulting in greater energy consumption and strain on the components.
In addition, if you run your air conditioning without noticing that the outside unit is covered or because you simply forgot, it could result in a range of problems. One issue is that the shortage of proper airflow could cause the compressor to overheat, leading to its failure or damage. That’s why it is vital to ensure the outdoor unit is always cleared of any obstructions and is not covered to maintain maximum 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 conditioning unit than to cover your exterior AC unit.
There are a number of key maintenance tasks you should prioritize to ensure optimal performance and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s a good idea to inspect your outdoor AC unit regularly and clear any debris such as leaves, small branches and dirt to maintain proper airflow. Second, check and clean the coils, fins and filters to make sure there isn't any dirt and dust buildup that would hinder efficient heat exchange or airflow.
Regular 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 plan of action that can substantially benefit your entire HVAC system in the long run.