As the sweltering summer sun starts to fade and the cooler temperatures of fall starts to settle in, residents of Lake Forest start preparing their homes and yards for the wintertime. For many, that leads to the question of whether they should cover their exterior AC for the winter.
While it may seem like a great idea, in reality there are multiple reasons why you shouldn’t cover your AC unit in the winter. In addition to not being something you need to do, covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment can actually cause problems.
Here, the professionals at 1st Choice Heating & Air Conditioning 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
Exterior AC units are built to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the wintertime. These systems are built with solid 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 manufactured 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 AC unit in the cold months 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 people with respiratory issues or allergies. Also, the unwanted 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 clear of debris, allowing for efficient airflow and preventing moisture buildup.
3. A Covered Air Conditioner Can Attract Animals
Human beings aren’t the only ones who get ready for winter. Animals that live around your home are also looking for a warm, cozy place to crash for the winter months. For many creatures, a covered air conditioner is an ideal winter dwelling.
Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats commonly make winter dens inside covered air conditioners. Animals residing in a covered air conditioner can cause numerous problems. Mice can chew through wires, insulation and other parts, causing damage that may require costly 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, decreasing the efficiency of the AC and potentially causing it to overheat. Additionally, 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 cold weather than a covered unit. That’s better for your AC—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 you shouldn't cover your air conditioner in the winter is because a cover limits airflow through the unit. Proper airflow is essential for the AC system because it assists heat exchange and enables the unit to cool effectively. When airflow is restricted, the system has to work harder to maintain the desired temperature, leading to increased energy consumption and strain on the components.
In addition, if you run your air conditioning without noticing that the exterior unit is covered or because you simply forgot, it could result in a range of problems. One issue is that the shortage 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 has no blockages 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 a whole lot more effective to do a little maintenance for your cooling system than to cover your outside AC unit.
There are several key maintenance projects you should prioritize to ensure the best possible performance and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s a good idea to inspect your outdoor AC unit regularly and clear any debris such as leaves, small branches and dirt to maintain proper airflow. Second, inspect and clean the coils, fins and filters to make sure there isn't any dirt and dust buildup that would prevent successful heat exchange or airflow.
Regular air conditioning maintenance not only improves efficiency, but it also helps extend the unit's life span, decreases energy consumption and avoids 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.