As the scorching summer heat starts to fade and the cooler temperatures of fall starts to settle in, residents of Menomonie and western Wisconsin start preparing their homes and yards for the the upcoming cold weather. For many, that leads to the question of whether they should cover their exterior air conditioner for the winter.
While it may seem like a smart idea, the truth is there are a number of reasons why you shouldn’t cover your AC unit in the winter. Along with not being something you need to do, covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment can even cause problems.
Here, the experts at Halverson Brothers 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
Exterior AC units are supposed to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the wintertime. 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 constructed to resist corrosion, and the housing is crafted to protect the internal components 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 cold months 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 creates the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to flourish.
Mold and mildew not only have a bad odor, but they can also present health risks, especially for household residents with respiratory issues or allergies. Plus, the excess moisture can corrode the internal components of the AC unit.
Rather than covering the unit, instead ensure proper drainage and keep the area around the unit free 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 hide out for the wintry months. For many critters, a covered air conditioner is an ideal winter dwelling.
Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats commonly 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 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 potent odors.
Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps deter animals, because an uncovered AC provides less shelter from chilly temperatures than a covered unit. That’s better for your air conditioner—and leaves you with less mess to throw away and things to repair in the spring.
4. Covering Your Air Conditioner Restricts Airflow
Another reason it's better that you don't cover your air conditioning equipment in the winter is because a cover limits 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 severely limited, the system has to work harder to reach the desired temperature, causing greater energy consumption and strain on the components.
In addition, if you use your air conditioner without noticing that the exterior 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, causing its failure or damage. That’s why it is vital 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 a whole lot more effective to do a little maintenance for your cooling system than to cover your exterior AC unit.
There are several key maintenance projects you should prioritize to ensure maximum performance and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s smart to examine your outdoor AC unit regularly and remove any debris such as leaves, small branches and dirt to allow proper airflow. Second, check and clean the coils, fins and filters to make sure there isn't any dirt and dust buildup that would prevent effective heat exchange or airflow.
Scheduled air conditioning maintenance not only improves efficiency, but it also helps extend the unit's life span, decreases energy consumption and prevents costly repairs. Rather than using a cover, investing time and effort into routine air conditioning maintenance is a proactive approach that can substantially benefit your entire HVAC system in the long run.