As the sweltering summer heat starts to fade and the relief of fall starts to settle in, residents of Pocatello start preparing their homes and yards for the wintertime. For many, that leads to the question of whether they ought to cover their exterior air conditioner for the winter.
While it may seem like a good idea, the truth is there are a number of reasons why you shouldn’t cover your AC unit in the winter. Along with not being something you need to do, covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment can actually cause problems.
Here, the experts at Vogts 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
Outdoor AC units are supposed to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the winter season. These systems are built with solid materials and components 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 air conditioner 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 sealing moisture inside the unit creates the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to spread.
Mold and mildew not only have an undesirable odor, but they can also present health risks, especially for people with respiratory issues or allergies. Plus, the excess 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 clear 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 make plans for winter. Animals that live around your home are also hunting for a warm, cozy place to hide out for the cold months. For many critters, a covered air conditioner is an ideal winter refuge.
Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats frequently make winter dens inside covered air conditioners. Animals dwelling in a covered air conditioner can cause many problems. Rats can chew through wires, insulation and other components, causing damage that may require expensive repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to construct a warm and comfortable place to get out of the cold weather can impair airflow and ventilation, lowering the efficiency of the appliance and potentially causing it to overheat. Moreover, animal excrement can result in unsanitary conditions and potent odors.
Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps discourage animals, 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 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 severely limited, the system has to work harder to achieve the desired temperature, leading to greater energy consumption and strain on the components.
In addition, if you run your air conditioning without knowing 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 correct airflow could cause the compressor to overheat, leading to its failure or damage. That’s why it is essential to ensure the outdoor unit is always cleared of any 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 a whole lot more effective to do a little maintenance for your cooling system than to cover your exterior AC unit.
There are several key maintenance activities you should prioritize to ensure maximum performance and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s a good idea to check your outdoor AC unit regularly and remove any debris such as leaves, small branches and dirt to promote proper airflow. Second, examine and clean the coils, fins and filters to make sure they are free from dirt and dust buildup that would hinder successful heat exchange or airflow.
Regular air conditioning maintenance not only enhances efficiency, but it also helps extend the unit's life span, lowers energy consumption and protects against costly repairs. Rather than using a cover, committing time and effort into routine air conditioning maintenance is a proactive strategy that can greatly benefit your entire HVAC system in the long run.