As the sweltering summer heat starts to fade and the refreshingly cool weather of fall starts to settle in, residents of Rock Hill start preparing their homes and yards for the wintertime. For many, that leads to the question of whether they need to cover their outside air conditioning unit for the winter.
While it may seem like a smart idea, the fact is there are multiple 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 experts at US Air Heating and Cooling 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
Exterior AC units are supposed to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the winter season. These systems are built with durable 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 designed to protect the internal elements from moisture and debris.
2. Covering Your Air Conditioner Can Cause Mold
One of the reasons you should not cover your AC unit in the winter is because doing so can trap moisture—which is the opposite of what you want in your outdoor unit. That’s because trapping moisture inside the unit generates the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to flourish.
Mold and mildew not only have an undesirable smell, but they can also pose health risks, especially for individuals with respiratory issues or allergies. Also, the trapped moisture can corrode the internal components of the AC unit.
Instead of covering the unit, instead ensure 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 get ready for winter. Animals that live around your home are also hunting for a warm, cozy place to live for the wintry months. For many animals, a covered air conditioner is the perfect winter home.
Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats often make homes inside covered air conditioners. Animals residing in a covered AC unit can cause several problems. Rats can chew through wires, insulation and other connections, causing damage that may require pricey repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to construct a warm and comfortable bed can obstruct airflow and ventilation, reducing the efficiency of the AC and potentially causing it to overheat. Additionally, animal excrement can result in unsanitary conditions and foul odors.
Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps discourage 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 conditioning equipment in the winter is because a cover blocks airflow through the unit. Adequate airflow is vital for the AC system because it helps with heat exchange and enables the unit to cool properly. When airflow is reduced, the system has to work harder to achieve the desired temperature, causing additional energy consumption and strain on the components.
In addition, if you run 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 absence of correct airflow could cause the compressor to overheat, resulting in its failure or damage. That’s why it is essential 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 a lot more effective to do a little maintenance for your cooling system than to cover your outside AC unit.
There are numerous key maintenance tasks you should prioritize to ensure maximum function and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s a good idea to examine your outdoor AC unit regularly and clear any debris such as leaves, sticks and dirt to maintain proper airflow. Second, check and clean the coils, fins and filters to make sure they are free from dirt and dust buildup that would hinder successful 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 protects against costly repairs. Rather than using a cover, putting 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.