As the scorching summer sunshine starts to fade and the refreshingly cool weather of fall starts to settle in, residents of Phoenix start preparing their homes and yards for the wintertime. For many, that leads to the question of whether they should cover their exterior air conditioner for the winter.
While it may seem like a great idea, in reality there are a number of reasons why you shouldn’t cover your AC unit in the winter. In addition to not being necessary, covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment can sometimes cause problems.
Here, the experts at Integrity AC & Heating LLC share five reasons why covering your air conditioner 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 units are built with durable materials and hardware 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 components from moisture and debris.
2. Covering Your Air Conditioner Can Cause Mold
One of the reasons you should avoid covering 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 sealing moisture inside the unit generates the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to thrive.
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. 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 cleared 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 looking for a warm, cozy place to crash for the cold months. For many animals, a covered air conditioner is an ideal winter refuge.
Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats often make homes inside covered air conditioners. Animals residing in a covered AC unit can cause numerous problems. Rodents can chew through wires, insulation and other components, causing damage that may require expensive repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to make themselves a warm and comfortable home can block airflow and ventilation, decreasing the efficiency of the AC and potentially causing it to overheat. In addition, animal waste can result in unsanitary conditions and bad odors.
Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps deter creatures, because an uncovered AC gives them less shelter from chilly temperatures than a covered unit. That’s better for your air conditioner—and leaves you with less mess to clean up and things to repair in the spring.
4. Covering Your Air Conditioner Restricts Airflow
Another reason not to cover your air conditioning equipment in the winter is because a cover limits airflow through the unit. Adequate airflow is vital for the AC system because it helps with heat exchange and enables the unit to cool efficiently. When airflow is severely limited, the system has to work harder to maintain the desired temperature, causing increased energy consumption and strain on the components.
In addition, if you use 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 correct airflow could cause the compressor to overheat, resulting in its failure or damage. That’s why it is necessary to ensure the outdoor unit is free from barriers 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 outside AC unit.
There are numerous key maintenance projects you should prioritize to ensure the best possible performance and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s wise to check your outdoor AC unit regularly and remove any debris such as leaves, small branches and dirt to maintain 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 boosts 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 plan of action that can greatly benefit your entire HVAC system in the long run.