As the hot summer sun starts to fade and the refreshingly cool weather of fall starts to settle in, residents of Cottonwood & Prescott start preparing their homes and yards for the wintertime. For many, that leads to the question of whether they ought to cover their outside air conditioner for the winter.
While it may seem like a great idea, the truth is there are many reasons why you shouldn’t cover your AC unit in the winter. In addition to not being needed, covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment can sometimes cause problems.
Here, the experts at Connolly Electric & Mechanical 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
Outside AC units are built to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the wintertime. These machines are built with sturdy materials and hardware 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 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 winter is because doing so can trap moisture—which is definitely not 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 spread.
Mold and mildew not only have a bad aroma, but they can also create health risks, especially for people with respiratory issues or allergies. Also, the trapped 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 clear of debris, allowing for efficient airflow and preventing moisture buildup.
3. A Covered Air Conditioner Can Attract Animals
Human beings aren’t the only ones who prepare for winter. Animals that live around your home are also searching for a warm, cozy place to crash for the cold months. For many creatures, a covered air conditioner is an ideal winter refuge.
Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats commonly make nests inside covered air conditioners. Animals living in a covered AC unit can cause many problems. Rodents can chew through wires, insulation and other parts, causing damage that may require costly repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to construct a warm and comfortable bed can block airflow and ventilation, limiting the efficiency of the appliance and potentially causing it to overheat. Additionally, animal droppings can result in unsanitary conditions and foul odors.
Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps discourage wildlife, because an uncovered AC gives them less shelter from cold weather than a covered unit. That’s better for your cooling system—and leaves you with less mess to throw away and things to repair when winter is over.
4. Covering Your Air Conditioner Restricts Airflow
Another reason it's better that you don't cover your AC unit in the winter is because a cover limits airflow through the unit. Suitable airflow is crucial for the AC system because it helps with heat exchange and enables the unit to cool properly. When airflow is constrained, the system has to work harder to reach the desired temperature, resulting in additional energy consumption and strain on the components.
In addition, if you run your air conditioner without realizing that the outdoor unit is covered or because you simply forgot, it could result in a range of problems. One issue is that the shortage of appropriate airflow could cause the compressor to overheat, resulting in its failure or damage. That’s why it is necessary to ensure the outdoor unit is always cleared of any 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 lots more effective to do a little maintenance for your cooling system than to cover your exterior AC unit.
There are a number of key maintenance projects you should prioritize to ensure maximum operation and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s a good idea to look at your outdoor AC unit regularly and remove any debris such as leaves, twigs 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 impede effective heat exchange or airflow.
Routine air conditioning maintenance not only improves efficiency, but it also helps extend the unit's life span, decreases energy consumption and protects against costly repairs. Rather than using a cover, committing time and effort into routine air conditioning maintenance is a proactive approach that can greatly benefit your entire HVAC system in the long run.