As the sweltering summer sunshine starts to fade and the cooler temperatures of fall starts to settle in, residents of Los Angeles start preparing their homes and yards for the wintertime. For many, that leads to the question of whether they ought to cover their outside air conditioning unit for the winter.
While it may seem like a smart 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 actually cause problems.
Here, the professionals at AZ Air Conditioning and Heating 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
Outdoor AC units are supposed to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the winter season. These systems 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 manufactured to protect the internal elements 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 not at all 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 thrive.
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. Additionally, the trapped moisture can corrode the internal components of the AC unit.
As an alternative to 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
Humans aren’t the only ones who make plans for winter. Animals that live around your home are also hunting for a warm, cozy place to live for the winter months. For many animals, a covered air conditioner is the perfect winter refuge.
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. Rats can chew through wires, insulation and other components, causing damage that may require expensive repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to make themselves a warm and comfortable bed can impair airflow and ventilation, lowering the efficiency of the appliance and potentially causing it to overheat. Additionally, animal waste can result in unsanitary conditions and bad odors.
Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps discourage animals, because an uncovered AC provides less shelter from cold weather than a covered unit. That’s better for your air conditioner—and leaves you with less mess to throw away and things to repair once the snow melts.
4. Covering Your Air Conditioner Restricts Airflow
Another reason you shouldn't cover your air conditioner in the winter is because a cover restricts airflow through the unit. Adequate airflow is vital for the AC system because it helps with heat exchange and allows the unit to cool efficiently. When airflow is severely limited, the system has to work harder to reach the desired temperature, causing additional energy consumption and strain on the components.
In addition, if you use your air conditioning without realizing that the outside unit is covered or because you simply forgot, it could result in a range of problems. One issue is that the absence of appropriate airflow could cause the compressor to overheat, resulting in its failure or damage. That’s why it is crucial to ensure the outdoor unit is free from obstructions and is not covered to maintain the best possible airflow.
5. AC Maintenance Works Better Than Covering Your Air Conditioner
The bottom line is, it's a lot more effective to do a little maintenance for your air conditioning unit than to cover your outdoor AC unit.
There are a number of key maintenance projects you should prioritize to ensure optimal operation and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s smart to check your outdoor AC unit regularly and pull out any debris such as leaves, sticks and dirt to maintain 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 prevent successful heat exchange or airflow.
Routine air conditioning maintenance not only boosts efficiency, but it also helps extend the unit's life span, lowers energy consumption and protects against costly repairs. Rather than using a cover, investing time and effort into routine air conditioning maintenance is a proactive strategy that can greatly benefit your entire HVAC system in the long run.