As the hot summer heat starts to fade and the refreshingly cool weather of fall starts to settle in, residents of Libertyville start preparing their homes and yards for the the upcoming cold weather. For many, that leads to the question of whether they need to cover their exterior air conditioner for the winter.
While it may seem like a smart idea, in reality there are several 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 even cause problems.
Here, the specialists at TopTec 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
Exterior AC units are built to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the wintertime. These machines are built with durable materials and components that can handle the outdoor elements without damage. The coils and fins of the unit are engineered to resist corrosion, and the housing is manufactured 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 AC unit in the wintertime is because doing so can trap moisture—which is the opposite of what you want in your outdoor unit. That’s because allowing moisture to collect inside the unit generates the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to thrive.
Mold and mildew not only have an undesirable 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.
Rather than 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
People aren’t the only ones who get ready for winter. Animals that live around your home are also searching for a warm, cozy place to live for the winter months. For many creatures, a covered air conditioner is an ideal winter dwelling.
Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats often make winter dens inside covered air conditioners. Animals living in a covered air conditioner can cause numerous problems. Rats 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 block airflow and ventilation, reducing the efficiency of the AC and potentially causing it to overheat. Moreover, animal waste can result in unsanitary conditions and foul odors.
Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps dissuade creatures, because an uncovered AC gives them 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 you shouldn't cover your AC unit 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 allows the unit to cool properly. When airflow is restricted, the system has to work harder to maintain the desired temperature, leading to increased energy consumption and strain on the components.
In addition, if you run your air conditioning 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 lack of appropriate airflow could cause the compressor to overheat, causing its failure or damage. That’s why it is vital to ensure the outdoor unit has no 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 lots more effective to do a little maintenance for your air conditioning unit than to cover your exterior AC unit.
There are several key maintenance activities you should prioritize to ensure maximum operation and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s a good idea to examine your outdoor AC unit regularly and remove any debris such as leaves, twigs and dirt to allow 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 prevent effective heat exchange or airflow.
Routine air conditioning maintenance not only improves efficiency, but it also helps extend the unit's life span, lowers energy consumption and avoids costly repairs. Rather than using a cover, putting time and effort into routine air conditioning maintenance is a proactive strategy that can greatly benefit your entire HVAC system in the long run.