As the sweltering summer sunshine starts to fade and the relief of fall starts to settle in, residents of Phoenix start preparing their homes and yards for the winter. For many, that leads to the question of whether they need to cover their exterior AC for the winter.
While it may seem like a great idea, the reality is there are a number of reasons why you shouldn’t cover your AC unit in the winter. In addition to not being needed, covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment can actually cause problems.
Here, the experts at Dial One Mears Air Conditioning & Heating Inc 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
Outdoor AC units are supposed to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the wintertime. These machines are built with solid materials and parts 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 parts 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 not at all what you want in your outdoor unit. That’s because trapping moisture inside the unit creates the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to thrive.
Mold and mildew not only have an unpleasant odor, but they can also pose health risks, especially for people with respiratory issues or allergies. Also, the excess moisture can corrode the internal components of the AC unit.
As an alternative to 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
You and your family aren’t the only ones who prepare for winter. Animals that live around your home are also searching for a warm, cozy place to live for the wintry months. For many critters, a covered air conditioner is the perfect winter dwelling.
Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats frequently make nests inside covered air conditioners. Animals residing in a covered air conditioner can cause several problems. Rodents can chew through wires, insulation and other components, causing damage that may require pricey repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to construct a warm and comfortable home can block airflow and ventilation, reducing the efficiency of the unit and potentially causing it to overheat. Moreover, animal waste can result in unsanitary conditions and foul odors.
Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps dissuade animals, because an uncovered AC offers less shelter from the elements than a covered unit. That’s better for your cooling system—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 air conditioner in the winter is because a cover restricts airflow through the unit. Suitable airflow is essential for the AC system because it assists heat exchange and enables the unit to cool effectively. When airflow is severely limited, the system has to work harder to maintain the desired temperature, causing greater energy consumption and strain on the components.
In addition, if you run your air conditioning 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 lack of correct airflow could cause the compressor to overheat, causing its failure or damage. That’s why it is necessary to ensure the outdoor unit is free from blockages and is not covered to maintain optimal 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 outside AC unit.
There are several key maintenance projects you should prioritize to ensure maximum function and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s a good idea to check your outdoor AC unit regularly and remove any debris such as leaves, twigs and dirt to maintain proper airflow. Second, check and clean the coils, fins and filters to make sure you don't see any dirt and dust buildup that would hinder effective heat exchange or airflow.
Scheduled air conditioning maintenance not only enhances efficiency, but it also helps extend the unit's life span, reduces energy consumption and avoids costly repairs. Rather than using a cover, investing time and effort into routine air conditioning maintenance is a proactive approach that can greatly benefit your entire HVAC system in the long run.