As the hot summer sun starts to fade and the refreshingly cool weather of fall starts to settle in, residents of Erie start preparing their homes and yards for the wintertime. For many, that leads to the question of whether they should cover their exterior air conditioner for the winter.
While it may seem like a great idea, the fact is there are multiple 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 even cause problems.
Here, the professionals at Patterson & Stirling 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 designed to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the winter season. These units are built with sturdy 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 avoid covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment 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 sealing moisture inside the unit creates the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to flourish.
Mold and mildew not only have a bad aroma, but they can also create health risks, especially for individuals with respiratory issues or allergies. Plus, the unwanted 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 clean 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 get ready for winter. Animals that live around your home are also looking for a warm, cozy place to live for the cold months. For many creatures, a covered air conditioner is an awesome winter home.
Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats often make homes inside covered air conditioners. Animals dwelling in a covered air conditioning unit can cause several problems. Rodents can chew through wires, insulation and other components, causing damage that may require expensive repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to create a warm and comfortable place to get out of the cold weather can impair airflow and ventilation, reducing the efficiency of the unit and potentially causing it to overheat. Additionally, animal droppings can result in unsanitary conditions and foul odors.
Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps discourage creatures, because an uncovered AC provides less shelter from the elements than a covered unit. That’s better for your air conditioner—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 you shouldn't cover your air conditioner in the winter is because a cover restricts airflow through the unit. Adequate airflow is vital for the AC system because it assists heat exchange and permits the unit to cool effectively. When airflow is restricted, the system has to work harder to reach the desired temperature, leading to additional 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 appropriate airflow could cause the compressor to overheat, causing its failure or damage. That’s why it is necessary to ensure the outdoor unit is free from barriers and is not covered to maintain maximum 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 conditioning unit than to cover your outside AC unit.
There are numerous key maintenance projects you should prioritize to ensure the best possible performance and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s smart to inspect your outdoor AC unit regularly and remove any debris such as leaves, sticks and dirt to allow proper airflow. Second, check and clean the coils, fins and filters to make sure there isn't any dirt and dust buildup that would prevent effective heat exchange or airflow.
Regular air conditioning maintenance not only boosts efficiency, but it also helps extend the unit's life span, lowers energy consumption and avoids costly repairs. Rather than using a cover, investing time and effort into routine air conditioning maintenance is a proactive approach that can greatly benefit your entire HVAC system in the long run.