As the hot summer heat starts to fade and the refreshingly cool weather of fall starts to settle in, residents of Mankato area 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 exterior air conditioning unit for the winter.
While it may seem like a good idea, the truth is there are multiple 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 experts at Northern Comfort Inc share five reasons why covering your air conditioning equipment 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 season. These systems are built with solid materials and hardware that can handle the outdoor elements without damage. The coils and fins of the unit are specially developed to resist corrosion, and the housing is designed to protect the internal parts from moisture and debris.
2. Covering Your Air Conditioner Can Cause Mold
One of the reasons you shouldn’t cover your outdoor air conditioning equipment in the wintertime 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 spread.
Mold and mildew not only have an undesirable aroma, but they can also create health risks, especially for individuals with respiratory issues or allergies. Plus, the unwanted 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 cold months. For many creatures, a covered air conditioner is an ideal winter dwelling.
Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats often make homes inside covered air conditioners. Animals dwelling in a covered air conditioning unit can cause several problems. Mice can chew through wires, insulation and other components, causing damage that may require costly repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to make themselves a warm and comfortable place to get out of the cold weather can block airflow and ventilation, reducing the efficiency of the appliance and potentially causing it to overheat. Moreover, animal waste can result in unsanitary conditions and potent odors.
Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps deter creatures, 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 throw away 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 restricts airflow through the unit. Proper airflow is crucial for the AC system because it helps with heat exchange and allows the unit to cool properly. When airflow is constrained, 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 turn on 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 lack of proper airflow could cause the compressor to overheat, leading to its failure or damage. That’s why it is necessary 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 much more effective to do a little maintenance for your air conditioner than to cover your exterior AC unit.
There are numerous key maintenance activities you should prioritize to ensure optimal operation and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s wise to check your outdoor AC unit regularly and get rid of any debris such as leaves, sticks and dirt to allow proper airflow. Second, inspect 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.
Routine 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, 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.