As the scorching summer sun starts to fade and the relief of fall starts to settle in, residents of Tucson start preparing their homes and yards for the wintertime. For many, that leads to the question of whether they ought to cover their outdoor AC 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 something you need to do, covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment can sometimes cause problems.
Here, the specialists at Ambient Air share five reasons why covering your air conditioner 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 supposed to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the wintertime. 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 constructed to resist corrosion, and the housing is designed to protect the internal components from moisture and debris.
2. Covering Your Air Conditioner Can Cause Mold
One of the reasons you should not cover your outdoor air conditioning equipment in the wintertime is because doing so can trap moisture—which is definitely not what you want in your outdoor unit. That’s because sealing moisture inside the unit creates the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to spread.
Mold and mildew not only have an unpleasant smell, but they can also create health risks, especially for individuals with respiratory issues or allergies. Plus, the trapped 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 make plans for winter. Animals that live around your home are also hunting for a warm, cozy place to crash for the wintry months. For many creatures, a covered air conditioner is the perfect winter refuge.
Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats commonly make homes inside covered air conditioners. Animals living in a covered AC unit can cause many problems. Rats can chew through wires, insulation and other connections, causing damage that may require costly repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to create a warm and comfortable bed can obstruct airflow and ventilation, reducing the efficiency of the unit and potentially causing it to overheat. Additionally, animal excrement can result in unsanitary conditions and potent odors.
Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps dissuade wildlife, because an uncovered AC provides less shelter from the elements 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 it's better that you don't cover your air conditioner in the winter is because a cover restricts airflow through the unit. Suitable airflow is essential for the AC system because it facilitates heat exchange and allows the unit to cool efficiently. When airflow is restricted, the system has to work harder to achieve the desired temperature, leading to greater energy consumption and strain on the components.
In addition, if you run 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 absence of proper airflow could cause the compressor to overheat, causing its failure or damage. That’s why it is necessary to ensure the outdoor unit is free from 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 a lot more effective to do a little maintenance for your air conditioning unit than to cover your outdoor AC unit.
There are several key maintenance tasks you should prioritize to ensure optimal function and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s smart to look at your outdoor AC unit regularly and pull out any debris such as leaves, sticks and dirt to maintain proper airflow. Second, inspect 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 enhances efficiency, but it also helps extend the unit's life span, lowers energy consumption and prevents costly repairs. Rather than using a cover, committing time and effort into routine air conditioning maintenance is a proactive approach that can greatly benefit your entire HVAC system in the long run.