As the scorching summer sunshine starts to fade and the refreshingly cool weather of fall starts to settle in, residents of Ellsworth 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 outside AC for the winter.
While it may seem like a great idea, in reality there are multiple reasons why you shouldn’t cover your AC unit in the winter. In addition to not being something you need to do, covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment can even cause problems.
Here, the professionals at Walter's-Eaton's Electric, Plumbing, Heating & AC share five reasons why covering your air conditioner 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 built to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the winter season. These machines are built with sturdy 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 designed to protect the internal components from moisture and debris.
2. Covering Your Air Conditioner Can Cause Mold
One of the reasons you should avoid covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment 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 allowing moisture to collect inside the unit produces the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to thrive.
Mold and mildew not only have a bad smell, 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.
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
Humans aren’t the only ones who prepare for winter. Animals that live around your home are also hunting for a warm, cozy place to hide out for the wintry months. For many critters, a covered air conditioner is an ideal winter dwelling.
Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats often make nests inside covered air conditioners. Animals living in a covered AC unit can cause numerous problems. Mice can chew through wires, insulation and other components, causing damage that may require pricey repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to create a warm and comfortable home can obstruct airflow and ventilation, reducing the efficiency of the AC and potentially causing it to overheat. In addition, animal excrement can result in unsanitary conditions and foul odors.
Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps discourage wildlife, because an uncovered AC offers less shelter from cold weather than a covered unit. That’s better for your air conditioner—and leaves you with less mess to throw away and things to repair once the snow melts.
4. Covering Your Air Conditioner Restricts Airflow
Another reason not to cover your AC unit in the winter is because a cover limits airflow through the unit. Adequate airflow is essential for the AC system because it helps with heat exchange and enables the unit to cool properly. When airflow is severely limited, the system has to work harder to achieve the desired temperature, resulting in greater energy consumption and strain on the components.
In addition, if you run your air conditioning without realizing that the exterior 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, leading to its failure or damage. That’s why it is necessary to ensure the outdoor unit is free from obstructions 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 conditioning unit than to cover your outdoor AC unit.
There are a number of key maintenance tasks you should prioritize to ensure the best possible function and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s smart to examine your outdoor AC unit regularly and pull out any debris such as leaves, small branches and dirt to promote 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 improves efficiency, but it also helps extend the unit's life span, decreases energy consumption and prevents costly repairs. Rather than using a cover, putting time and effort into routine air conditioning maintenance is a proactive strategy that can substantially benefit your entire HVAC system in the long run.