As the sweltering summer heat starts to fade and the refreshingly cool weather of fall starts to settle in, residents of Fort Lauderdale 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 conditioner for the winter.
While it may seem like a smart idea, in reality there are many reasons why you shouldn’t cover your AC unit in the winter. In addition to not being something you need to do, covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment can sometimes cause problems.
Here, the professionals at Solar Air 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 designed to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the winter. 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 specially developed 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 AC unit in the winter is because doing so can trap moisture—which is the opposite of 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 create health risks, especially for people with respiratory issues or allergies. Additionally, the trapped moisture can corrode the internal components of the AC unit.
Instead of 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 wintry months. For many creatures, a covered air conditioner is an ideal winter refuge.
Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats commonly make winter dens inside covered air conditioners. Animals living in a covered air conditioner can cause numerous problems. Rodents can chew through wires, insulation and other parts, causing damage that may require expensive repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to create a warm and comfortable home can obstruct airflow and ventilation, limiting the efficiency of the AC and potentially causing it to overheat. In addition, animal excrement can result in unsanitary conditions and bad odors.
Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps dissuade wildlife, because an uncovered AC gives them less shelter from cold weather 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 not to cover your air conditioning equipment in the winter is because a cover restricts airflow through the unit. Suitable airflow is essential for the AC system because it assists heat exchange and enables the unit to cool properly. When airflow is constrained, the system has to work harder to reach the desired temperature, resulting in greater energy consumption and strain on the components.
In addition, if you turn on 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, leading to 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 lots more effective to do a little maintenance for your air conditioner than to cover your outside AC unit.
There are a number of key maintenance projects you should prioritize to ensure the best possible function and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s a good idea to inspect your outdoor AC unit regularly and get rid of any debris such as leaves, twigs and dirt to promote proper airflow. Second, check and clean the coils, fins and filters to make sure you don't see any dirt and dust buildup that would impede successful heat exchange or airflow.
Routine air conditioning maintenance not only boosts efficiency, but it also helps extend the unit's life span, decreases energy consumption and avoids costly repairs. Rather than using a cover, committing time and effort into routine air conditioning maintenance is a proactive approach that can significantly benefit your entire HVAC system in the long run.