As the sweltering summer heat starts to fade and the relief of fall starts to settle in, residents of Cedar Rapids start preparing their homes and yards for the winter. For many, that leads to the question of whether they ought to cover their outdoor air conditioning unit for the winter.
While it may seem like a great idea, in reality there are multiple reasons why you shouldn’t cover your AC unit in the winter. On top of not being needed, covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment can even cause problems.
Here, the professionals at Ilten's 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 built to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the wintertime. These systems are built with solid 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 designed to protect the internal components from moisture and debris.
2. Covering Your Air Conditioner Can Cause Mold
One of the reasons you should not cover your outdoor air conditioning equipment 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 allowing moisture to collect inside the unit creates the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to spread.
Mold and mildew not only have a bad smell, but they can also pose health risks, especially for household residents with respiratory issues or allergies. Plus, the unwanted 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 free 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 hunting for a warm, cozy place to hide out for the wintry months. For many animals, a covered air conditioner is an ideal winter home.
Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats frequently make nests inside covered air conditioners. Animals living in a covered air conditioner 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 make themselves a warm and comfortable home can impair airflow and ventilation, lowering the efficiency of the appliance and potentially causing it to overheat. In addition, animal droppings can result in unsanitary conditions and potent odors.
Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps dissuade creatures, because an uncovered AC offers less shelter from cold weather than a covered unit. That’s better for your air conditioner—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 restricts airflow through the unit. Proper airflow is crucial for the AC system because it facilitates heat exchange and allows the unit to cool efficiently. When airflow is reduced, the system has to work harder to achieve the desired temperature, resulting in increased energy consumption and strain on the components.
In addition, if you turn on your AC 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, leading to its failure or damage. That’s why it is necessary to ensure the outdoor unit has no 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 lots more effective to do a little maintenance for your air conditioner than to cover your outdoor AC unit.
There are numerous key maintenance tasks you should prioritize to ensure maximum function and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s smart to inspect your outdoor AC unit regularly and remove any debris such as leaves, small branches and dirt to allow proper airflow. Second, examine and clean the coils, fins and filters to make sure there isn't any dirt and dust buildup that would prevent efficient heat exchange or airflow.
Regular air conditioning maintenance not only improves efficiency, but it also helps extend the unit's life span, lowers energy consumption and prevents costly repairs. Rather than using a cover, committing time and effort into routine air conditioning maintenance is a proactive approach that can greatly benefit your entire HVAC system in the long run.