As the hot summer sunshine starts to fade and the refreshingly cool weather of fall starts to settle in, residents of Wausau start preparing their homes and yards for the winter. For many, that leads to the question of whether they need to cover their exterior air conditioner 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. Along with not being needed, covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment can actually cause problems.
Here, the experts at Gilray 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
Outside 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 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 air conditioner in the wintertime is because doing so can trap moisture—which is definitely not 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 undesirable smell, but they can also pose health risks, especially for household residents with respiratory issues or allergies. Additionally, the excess moisture can corrode the internal components of the AC unit.
As an alternative to covering the unit, instead make sure the unit has 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 looking for a warm, cozy place to hide out for the cold months. For many animals, a covered air conditioner is an awesome winter home.
Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats often make nests inside covered air conditioners. Animals living in a covered air conditioning unit can cause several problems. Rodents 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 place to get out of the cold weather can block airflow and ventilation, decreasing the efficiency of the AC and potentially causing it to overheat. In addition, animal excrement can result in unsanitary conditions and foul odors.
Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps deter animals, because an uncovered AC gives them less shelter from chilly temperatures than a covered unit. That’s better for your air conditioner—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 it's better that you don't cover your AC unit in the winter is because a cover blocks airflow through the unit. Suitable airflow is essential for the AC system because it facilitates heat exchange and permits the unit to cool effectively. When airflow is severely limited, the system has to work harder to maintain the desired temperature, resulting in increased energy consumption and strain on the components.
In addition, if you use your AC without noticing that the outside 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 always cleared of any obstructions and is not covered to maintain optimal airflow.
5. AC Maintenance Works Better Than Covering Your Air Conditioner
The bottom line is, it's much more effective to do a little maintenance for your cooling system than to cover your outside AC unit.
There are several key maintenance activities you should prioritize to ensure maximum performance and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s smart to look at your outdoor AC unit regularly and get rid of any debris such as leaves, twigs and dirt to maintain proper airflow. Second, inspect and clean the coils, fins and filters to make sure they are free from dirt and dust buildup that would hinder effective heat exchange or airflow.
Regular air conditioning maintenance not only boosts efficiency, but it also helps extend the unit's life span, decreases energy consumption and protects against costly repairs. Rather than using a cover, investing time and effort into routine air conditioning maintenance is a proactive strategy that can significantly benefit your entire HVAC system in the long run.