As the sweltering summer sunshine starts to fade and the relief of fall starts to settle in, residents of Des Moines start preparing their homes and yards for the the upcoming cold weather. For many, that leads to the question of whether they ought to cover their outside AC for the winter.
While it may seem like a good idea, the reality is there are many 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 even cause problems.
Here, the professionals at Heartland Heating & Cooling 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
Outside AC units are built to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the winter. These systems are built with sturdy materials and parts 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 elements 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 trapping moisture inside the unit creates the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to spread.
Mold and mildew not only have an undesirable aroma, but they can also pose health risks, especially for people with respiratory issues or allergies. Also, the trapped moisture can corrode the internal components of the AC unit.
Rather than covering the unit, instead make sure the unit has 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
Human beings 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 dwelling.
Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats often make winter dens inside covered air conditioners. Animals living in a covered air conditioning unit can cause many problems. Rodents can chew through wires, insulation and other parts, causing damage that may require pricey repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to make themselves a warm and comfortable nest can block airflow and ventilation, lowering the efficiency of the AC and potentially causing it to overheat. Moreover, animal droppings can result in unsanitary conditions and foul odors.
Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps discourage creatures, because an uncovered AC provides 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 when winter is over.
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. Suitable airflow is essential for the AC system because it helps with heat exchange and permits the unit to cool effectively. When airflow is constrained, the system has to work harder to maintain 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 exterior 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 vital to ensure the outdoor unit has no 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 lots more effective to do a little maintenance for your air conditioning unit than to cover your exterior AC unit.
There are numerous key maintenance tasks you should prioritize to ensure maximum performance and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s smart to check your outdoor AC unit regularly and clear any debris such as leaves, twigs and dirt to promote proper airflow. Second, examine and clean the coils, fins and filters to make sure there isn't any dirt and dust buildup that would hinder 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 protects against costly repairs. Rather than using a cover, putting time and effort into routine air conditioning maintenance is a proactive strategy that can significantly benefit your entire HVAC system in the long run.