As the hot summer sunshine starts to fade and the relief of fall starts to settle in, residents of Northglenn start preparing their homes and yards for the winter. For many, that leads to the question of whether they ought to cover their exterior air conditioning unit for the winter.
While it may seem like a good idea, the fact is there are many reasons why you shouldn’t cover your AC unit in the winter. On top of not being necessary, covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment can actually cause problems.
Here, the experts at Northglenn Heating & Air Conditioning 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
Exterior AC units are designed to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the winter season. These units are built with solid materials and components that can handle the outdoor elements without damage. The coils and fins of the unit are constructed to resist corrosion, and the housing is manufactured to protect the internal elements 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 winter 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 produces the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to thrive.
Mold and mildew not only have an unpleasant smell, but they can also create health risks, especially for household residents with respiratory issues or allergies. Additionally, the trapped moisture can corrode the internal components of the AC unit.
Instead of covering the unit, instead provide 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 make plans for winter. Animals that live around your home are also hunting for a warm, cozy place to crash for the cold months. For many critters, a covered air conditioner is the perfect winter refuge.
Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats often make winter dens inside covered air conditioners. Animals dwelling in a covered AC unit can cause several problems. Mice 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. Additionally, animal excrement can result in unsanitary conditions and potent odors.
Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps deter wildlife, because an uncovered AC provides less shelter from cold weather than a covered unit. That’s better for your AC—and leaves you with less mess to pick up and things to repair when winter is over.
4. Covering Your Air Conditioner Restricts Airflow
Another reason not to cover your air conditioning equipment in the winter is because a cover restricts airflow through the unit. Suitable airflow is vital for the AC system because it facilitates heat exchange and permits the unit to cool efficiently. When airflow is reduced, the system has to work harder to reach the desired temperature, resulting in additional energy consumption and strain on the components.
In addition, if you run your AC 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 proper airflow could cause the compressor to overheat, leading to its failure or damage. That’s why it is vital to ensure the outdoor unit has no obstructions and is not covered to maintain the best possible 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 conditioner than to cover your exterior AC unit.
There are several key maintenance tasks you should prioritize to ensure maximum performance and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s wise to examine your outdoor AC unit regularly and clear any debris such as leaves, twigs and dirt to promote proper airflow. Second, inspect and clean the coils, fins and filters to make sure there isn't any dirt and dust buildup that would hinder successful heat exchange or airflow.
Scheduled air conditioning maintenance not only improves efficiency, but it also helps extend the unit's life span, reduces energy consumption and avoids costly repairs. Rather than using a cover, putting 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.