As the hot summer heat starts to fade and the refreshingly cool weather of fall starts to settle in, residents of Haines City start preparing their homes and yards for the wintertime. For many, that leads to the question of whether they should cover their exterior air conditioning unit 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 something you need to do, covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment can sometimes cause problems.
Here, the specialists at Air Commander's Heating & Air Conditioning Co. 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
Outside AC units are built 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 engineered to resist corrosion, and the housing is crafted to protect the internal parts from moisture and debris.
2. Covering Your Air Conditioner Can Cause Mold
One of the reasons you shouldn’t cover your air conditioner 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 sealing moisture inside the unit creates the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to spread.
Mold and mildew not only have a bad smell, but they can also present health risks, especially for household residents 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 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
You and your family aren’t the only ones who prepare for winter. Animals that live around your home are also hunting for a warm, cozy place to crash for the winter months. For many animals, a covered air conditioner is an ideal winter home.
Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats frequently make homes inside covered air conditioners. Animals living in a covered air conditioning unit can cause several problems. Rats can chew through wires, insulation and other components, causing damage that may require pricey repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to construct a warm and comfortable place to get out of the cold weather can obstruct 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 bad odors.
Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps deter creatures, because an uncovered AC offers less shelter from the elements than a covered unit. That’s better for your AC—and leaves you with less mess to pick up and things to repair in the spring.
4. Covering Your Air Conditioner Restricts Airflow
Another reason not to cover your AC unit in the winter is because a cover restricts airflow through the unit. Suitable airflow is vital for the AC system because it assists heat exchange and enables the unit to cool efficiently. When airflow is reduced, the system has to work harder to achieve the desired temperature, resulting in increased energy consumption and strain on the components.
In addition, if you use your AC without knowing that the exterior 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, leading to its failure or damage. That’s why it is necessary to ensure the outdoor unit has no blockages 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 a number of key maintenance projects you should prioritize to ensure optimal function 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, check and clean the coils, fins and filters to make sure there isn't any dirt and dust buildup that would impede effective heat exchange or airflow.
Routine air conditioning maintenance not only improves efficiency, but it also helps extend the unit's life span, reduces energy consumption and protects against costly repairs. Rather than using a cover, committing time and effort into routine air conditioning maintenance is a proactive plan of action that can significantly benefit your entire HVAC system in the long run.