As the hot summer sun starts to fade and the cooler temperatures of fall starts to settle in, residents of Houston start preparing their homes and yards for the wintertime. For many, that leads to the question of whether they need to cover their outside AC 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. In addition to not being necessary, covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment can sometimes cause problems.
Here, the experts at Air Current AC & Heat 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
Outside AC units are supposed to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the wintertime. These machines are built with durable 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 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 cold months 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 produces the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to spread.
Mold and mildew not only have a bad aroma, but they can also pose health risks, especially for household residents with respiratory issues or allergies. Plus, the excess 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 cleared 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 hide out for the wintry months. For many critters, a covered air conditioner is an awesome winter refuge.
Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats commonly make nests inside covered air conditioners. Animals living in a covered AC unit can cause numerous problems. Mice can chew through wires, insulation and other components, causing damage that may require pricey repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to construct a warm and comfortable place to get out of the cold weather can block airflow and ventilation, lowering the efficiency of the unit and potentially causing it to overheat. In addition, animal droppings can result in unsanitary conditions and potent odors.
Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps deter animals, because an uncovered AC offers less shelter from chilly temperatures than a covered unit. That’s better for your air conditioner—and leaves you with less mess to throw away and things to repair in the spring.
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 restricts airflow through the unit. Proper airflow is vital for the AC system because it helps with heat exchange and permits the unit to cool efficiently. When airflow is restricted, the system has to work harder to maintain the desired temperature, causing increased energy consumption and strain on the components.
In addition, if you use your air conditioner 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 lack of correct airflow could cause the compressor to overheat, leading to its failure or damage. That’s why it is crucial to ensure the outdoor unit is always cleared of any 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 whole lot more effective to do a little maintenance for your air conditioning unit than to cover your outside AC unit.
There are numerous key maintenance activities you should prioritize to ensure optimal function and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s a good idea to check your outdoor AC unit regularly and remove any debris such as leaves, small branches and dirt to maintain proper airflow. Second, examine 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 improves efficiency, but it also helps extend the unit's life span, reduces energy consumption and avoids costly repairs. Rather than using a cover, putting time and effort into routine air conditioning maintenance is a proactive strategy that can significantly benefit your entire HVAC system in the long run.