As the hot summer heat starts to fade and the relief of fall starts to settle in, residents of Saint Louis start preparing their homes and yards for the winter. For many, that leads to the question of whether they should cover their exterior AC for the winter.
While it may seem like a smart idea, the truth is there are several reasons why you shouldn’t cover your AC unit in the winter. On top of not being needed, covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment can actually cause problems.
Here, the experts at Morgner Inc. Air Conditioning & Heating 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 supposed to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the winter season. These machines are built with sturdy materials and components 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 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 people 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 ensure 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
Humans aren’t the only ones who prepare for winter. Animals that live around your home are also looking for a warm, cozy place to hide out for the winter months. For many creatures, a covered air conditioner is the perfect winter home.
Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats often make homes inside covered air conditioners. Animals dwelling in a covered AC unit can cause many problems. Rats can chew through wires, insulation and other components, causing damage that may require expensive repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to create a warm and comfortable bed can impair airflow and ventilation, reducing the efficiency of the AC and potentially causing it to overheat. Moreover, animal waste can result in unsanitary conditions and bad odors.
Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps dissuade wildlife, because an uncovered AC provides less shelter from cold weather than a covered unit. That’s better for your air conditioner—and leaves you with less mess to pick up and things to repair once the snow melts.
4. Covering Your Air Conditioner Restricts Airflow
Another reason you shouldn't cover your AC unit in the winter is because a cover blocks airflow through the unit. Adequate airflow is crucial for the AC system because it facilitates heat exchange and permits the unit to cool properly. When airflow is severely limited, the system has to work harder to reach the desired temperature, resulting in greater energy consumption and strain on the components.
In addition, if you use your air conditioner without knowing that the outside unit is covered or because you simply forgot, it could result in a range of problems. One issue is that the shortage of appropriate airflow could cause the compressor to overheat, causing its failure or damage. That’s why it is essential to ensure the outdoor unit is always cleared of any barriers 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 exterior AC unit.
There are a number of key maintenance projects you should prioritize to ensure the best possible performance and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s smart to inspect your outdoor AC unit regularly and pull out any debris such as leaves, twigs and dirt to maintain proper airflow. Second, examine and clean the coils, fins and filters to make sure you don't see any dirt and dust buildup that would hinder efficient heat exchange or airflow.
Scheduled air conditioning maintenance not only boosts efficiency, but it also helps extend the unit's life span, reduces energy consumption and prevents costly repairs. Rather than using a cover, committing time and effort into routine air conditioning maintenance is a proactive approach that can significantly benefit your entire HVAC system in the long run.