As the hot summer heat starts to fade and the refreshingly cool weather of fall starts to settle in, residents of Pella start preparing their homes and yards for the winter. For many, that leads to the question of whether they should cover their outside AC for the winter.
While it may seem like a great idea, the fact is there are several 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 actually cause problems.
Here, the specialists at Van Haaften Plumbing & Heating 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
Outside AC units are supposed to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the winter. These systems are built with durable materials and hardware 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 crafted 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 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 an unpleasant odor, but they can also present health risks, especially for household residents with respiratory issues or allergies. Also, the unwanted 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 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 prepare for winter. Animals that live around your home are also hunting for a warm, cozy place to crash for the wintry months. For many creatures, a covered air conditioner is an awesome winter refuge.
Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats frequently make homes inside covered air conditioners. Animals living in a covered air conditioner can cause numerous problems. Rats can chew through wires, insulation and other parts, causing damage that may require pricey repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to construct a warm and comfortable nest can block airflow and ventilation, limiting the efficiency of the appliance and potentially causing it to overheat. In addition, animal waste can result in unsanitary conditions and bad odors.
Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps dissuade animals, because an uncovered AC gives them less shelter from the elements than a covered unit. That’s better for your cooling system—and leaves you with less mess to clean up and things to repair once the snow melts.
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. Suitable airflow is crucial for the AC system because it assists heat exchange and allows the unit to cool effectively. When airflow is reduced, the system has to work harder to maintain the desired temperature, resulting in increased energy consumption and strain on the components.
In addition, if you use your air conditioner 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 proper airflow could cause the compressor to overheat, leading to its failure or damage. That’s why it is necessary to ensure the outdoor unit is free from obstructions and is not covered to maintain optimal 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 exterior AC unit.
There are a number of key maintenance activities you should prioritize to ensure optimal function and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s wise to inspect your outdoor AC unit regularly and pull out any debris such as leaves, twigs and dirt to allow proper airflow. Second, check and clean the coils, fins and filters to make sure they are free from dirt and dust buildup that would impede effective heat exchange or airflow.
Scheduled air conditioning maintenance not only enhances efficiency, but it also helps extend the unit's life span, lowers energy consumption and prevents 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.