As the sweltering summer heat starts to fade and the refreshingly cool weather of fall starts to settle in, residents of Chelan and Wenatchee start preparing their homes and yards for the wintertime. For many, that leads to the question of whether they need to cover their outdoor AC for the winter.
While it may seem like a good idea, the reality is there are a number of reasons why you shouldn’t cover your AC unit in the winter. On top of not being necessary, covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment can actually cause problems.
Here, the professionals at Lakeside Heating & Air 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 winter. These systems are built with sturdy 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 elements from moisture and debris.
2. Covering Your Air Conditioner Can Cause Mold
One of the reasons you should avoid covering your AC unit in the winter 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 unpleasant smell, but they can also pose health risks, especially for people with respiratory issues or allergies. Additionally, the trapped moisture can corrode the internal components of the AC unit.
Rather than 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
You and your family aren’t the only ones who make plans for winter. Animals that live around your home are also hunting for a warm, cozy place to crash for the wintry months. For many creatures, a covered air conditioner is an awesome winter home.
Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats commonly make nests inside covered air conditioners. Animals living in a covered air conditioner can cause numerous problems. Rats 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 nest can impair airflow and ventilation, limiting the efficiency of the AC and potentially causing it to overheat. In addition, animal droppings can result in unsanitary conditions and potent odors.
Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps dissuade wildlife, 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 when winter is over.
4. Covering Your Air Conditioner Restricts Airflow
Another reason not to cover your air conditioner in the winter is because a cover limits airflow through the unit. Adequate airflow is crucial for the AC system because it assists heat exchange and allows the unit to cool properly. When airflow is reduced, the system has to work harder to achieve the desired temperature, causing increased energy consumption and strain on the components.
In addition, if you use your AC 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 absence of proper airflow could cause the compressor to overheat, resulting in its failure or damage. That’s why it is vital to ensure the outdoor unit is free from barriers 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 cooling system than to cover your exterior AC unit.
There are numerous key maintenance activities you should prioritize to ensure optimal function and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s wise to check your outdoor AC unit regularly and pull out any debris such as leaves, sticks and dirt to promote proper airflow. Second, inspect and clean the coils, fins and filters to make sure you don't see any dirt and dust buildup that would hinder effective heat exchange or airflow.
Scheduled air conditioning maintenance not only enhances efficiency, but it also helps extend the unit's life span, reduces energy consumption and avoids costly repairs. Rather than using a cover, putting 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.