As the scorching summer heat starts to fade and the relief of fall starts to settle in, residents of Portland start preparing their homes and yards for the wintertime. For many, that leads to the question of whether they need to cover their outside air conditioner for the winter.
While it may seem like a good idea, the truth is there are several reasons why you shouldn’t cover your AC unit in the winter. On top of not being necessary, covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment can actually cause problems.
Here, the professionals at Three Rivers Heating & Cooling 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
Exterior AC units are designed to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the winter season. These machines are built with solid materials and parts that can handle the outdoor elements without damage. The coils and fins of the unit are engineered 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 allowing moisture to collect inside the unit creates the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to spread.
Mold and mildew not only have an undesirable odor, but they can also create health risks, especially for household residents with respiratory issues or allergies. Also, the excess 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 clear 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 live for the cold months. For many animals, a covered air conditioner is an ideal winter refuge.
Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats frequently make winter dens inside covered air conditioners. Animals dwelling in a covered air conditioning unit can cause numerous problems. Mice can chew through wires, insulation and other components, causing damage that may require expensive repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to construct a warm and comfortable home can block airflow and ventilation, decreasing the efficiency of the unit and potentially causing it to overheat. In addition, animal excrement can result in unsanitary conditions and potent odors.
Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps deter creatures, because an uncovered AC offers less shelter from cold weather than a covered unit. That’s better for your cooling system—and leaves you with less mess to clean up and things to repair when winter is over.
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 crucial 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 achieve the desired temperature, leading to additional energy consumption and strain on the components.
In addition, if you use your AC without knowing that the outside unit is covered or because you simply forgot, it could result in a range of problems. One issue is that the shortage of proper airflow could cause the compressor to overheat, resulting in its failure or damage. That’s why it is essential to ensure the outdoor unit is free from obstructions and is not covered to maintain maximum 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 several key maintenance tasks you should prioritize to ensure the best possible 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, check and clean the coils, fins and filters to make sure they are free from dirt and dust buildup that would prevent successful heat exchange or airflow.
Scheduled 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 plan of action that can substantially benefit your entire HVAC system in the long run.