As the scorching summer sunshine starts to fade and the cooler temperatures of fall starts to settle in, residents of West Columbia start preparing their homes and yards for the winter. For many, that leads to the question of whether they need to cover their outdoor air conditioning unit for the winter.
While it may seem like a great idea, the truth is there are a number of reasons why you shouldn’t cover your AC unit in the winter. On top of not being needed, covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment can actually cause problems.
Here, the specialists at Tri City Fuel & Heating 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 durable materials and parts 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 parts from moisture and debris.
2. Covering Your Air Conditioner Can Cause Mold
One of the reasons you should not cover your air conditioner in the cold months 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 thrive.
Mold and mildew not only have an undesirable smell, but they can also pose health risks, especially for people with respiratory issues or allergies. Also, the trapped moisture can corrode the internal components of the AC unit.
As an alternative to covering the unit, instead provide proper drainage and keep the area around the unit free 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 make plans for winter. Animals that live around your home are also searching for a warm, cozy place to hide out for the winter months. For many critters, a covered air conditioner is the perfect winter dwelling.
Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats often make homes inside covered air conditioners. Animals residing in a covered air conditioner can cause several problems. Rodents can chew through wires, insulation and other parts, causing damage that may require pricey repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to construct a warm and comfortable nest can block airflow and ventilation, reducing the efficiency of the appliance and potentially causing it to overheat. In addition, animal droppings can result in unsanitary conditions and foul odors.
Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps discourage animals, because an uncovered AC offers less shelter from the elements than a covered unit. That’s better for your air conditioner—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 it's better that you don't cover your air conditioning equipment in the winter is because a cover restricts airflow through the unit. Adequate airflow is crucial for the AC system because it assists heat exchange and enables the unit to cool properly. When airflow is constrained, the system has to work harder to maintain the desired temperature, leading to greater energy consumption and strain on the components.
In addition, if you use your air conditioner 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, causing its failure or damage. That’s why it is essential to ensure the outdoor unit is free from obstructions and is not covered to maintain optimal airflow.
5. AC Maintenance Works Better Than Covering Your Air Conditioner
The bottom line is, it's much more effective to do a little maintenance for your air conditioner than to cover your outside AC unit.
There are several key maintenance tasks you should prioritize to ensure the best possible operation and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s smart to inspect your outdoor AC unit regularly and remove any debris such as leaves, small branches and dirt to allow 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 prevent successful heat exchange or airflow.
Routine air conditioning maintenance not only enhances efficiency, but it also helps extend the unit's life span, reduces energy consumption and protects against costly repairs. Rather than using a cover, investing time and effort into routine air conditioning maintenance is a proactive approach that can significantly benefit your entire HVAC system in the long run.