If you’re like most people, you must be doing everything you can to make sure your air conditioner always stays in good shape. As the cold season sets in, you may often wonder whether you need to cover your air conditioner to protect it from the harsh weather conditions. Unfortunately, HVAC experts never seem to have a straight answer as to whether it’s necessary to cover outdoor air conditioner units. However, there are pros and cons of covering your unit. Read on to determine the best course of action.
You must have seen air conditioner covers being sold in hardware stores. They are specially designed to shield an outdoor unit from the harsh weather. These items come in many shapes, materials, and styles, including armor-plated, top-only covers, mesh, adjustable, insulated, water-resistant, and many more. Many people find it important to keep their outdoor units safe. Here are some of the reasons why.
Covers Protect the Unit From Debris
Some people argue that covering your outdoor unit helps in protecting it from debris. This may be particularly important if your home is prone to icicles. Such items can fall from the roof and hit the unit, causing some damage to it. Similarly, if your air conditioner is near a tree, it might also face the same issue with falling limbs that cannot withstand the weight of the snow.
Since your unit requires good airflow to function properly, it may not be able to keep out small items like grass, seeds, and leaves. These items may build up over time and create problems in the unit. More precisely, when wet grass and leaves pile up at the bottom of the unit, they may decay and produce formic acid. This acid may corrode the copper tubing, creating tiny holes. These holes can make your unit less efficient by letting out a liquid agent that cools the air known as refrigerant.
Covers Protect the Unit From Snow and Rain
When the weather becomes harsh enough, ice and snow may build up in your unit and cause damage to your outdoor unit over time. This may particularly be the case if your area gets a couple of feet of snow during the winter season. The weight of the frozen water can damage your unit’s interior components. As rainwater gets into the unit, it may freeze and form ice on the conditioner fans. This may displace them and stop air from flowing as it should. When you switch on your air conditioner in the spring, you may notice a malfunction or poor cooling.
Depending on what materials your air conditioner is made of and the amount of snow getting into it, the interior may rust and create problems in the unit as the snow melts. Moreover, the water could refreeze and weaken the condenser coils.
Covers Protect Your Unit From Dust and Dirt
Some HVAC experts argue that it’s important to cover your outdoor unit to prevent dust and dirt from getting in. Dirt and dust can settle within your air ducts and on fans and condenser coils. If your air ducts are coated with dirt, your asthma and allergies could be aggravated and your air quality severely affected within your home.
Generally, dirt captures and holds water. If water enters dirty air ducts, it easily gets stuck and evaporates very slowly. This may lead to the development of mold and mildew in your unit, creating bad odors.
Based on these arguments, it’s easy to conclude that covering your unit is the best idea to protect it. However, you’d be surprised to learn that covering the unit can make it worse. Here are some of the reasons why covering your air conditioner is not recommended.
Covers May Create a Pest Infestation Problem
When the temperatures drop, it’s common to see animals seeking shelter and settling wherever they can to shield themselves from the harsh winter winds. If your unit is well-covered, there’s no reason why rodents and small animals would hesitate to occupy it. When they get inside the unit, they may start nibbling wires and causing damage to other parts in the unit.
Covers May Cause the Unit to Trap Moisture
When you cover your outdoor unit, you may trap the moisture inside, creating a sauna effect. This can create and accelerate corrosion of the components inside. Over time, trapped moisture can also create mold and mildew growth in your unit and block airflow. This may severely damage your unit, reduce its efficiency, and create bad odors.
Whatever the case, your air conditioner’s outdoor unit is placed outside because it requires good airflow.
Manufacturers Don’t Recommend Covers
Most manufacturers don’t recommend covering AC units in any way. If you check your air conditioner’s manual, there’s a high chance you will not see any mention of covering your unit. Your air conditioner is built to withstand harsh weather conditions and operate all year round.
If there was any need to cover the units during certain times of the year or certain weather conditions, manufacturers would probably add specialized covers to them.
Covers May Damage the Unit When You Switch It On
When the time to use your air conditioner arrives, you may not remember that you covered your unit during the cold season. If you switched on the unit without uncovering it, airflow could be obstructed and lead to a serious problem in the unit. Furthermore, it may create a fire when switching on if it has a heat pump.
Based on all these arguments, it may be confusing to decide whether to cover your AC unit or leave it uncovered during the cold season. The fact that your unit is made to stay outside no matter the weather condition makes it quite obvious that air conditioners shouldn’t be covered.
Just to be safe, you can consult your manual or contact your manufacturer to ascertain whether you should be worried about leaving your outdoor unit uncovered this season.
Protect Your Unit With Regular Maintenance
The best way to keep your unit safe and fully efficient throughout the year is to have it maintained by a certified technician regularly. During a maintenance session, a skilled HVAC technician will check for any debris, snow, or anything else that may damage the unit or make it inefficient. Also, technicians will make sure your outdoor unit is located in a safe place to prevent damage from things like tree branches and icicles. The fact that all manufacturers recommend regular maintenance means that you should focus on it more than covering your unit.
If you’re ready to have your air conditioner maintained by a professional to ensure it functions optimally throughout the year, McGowan’s Heating & Air Conditioning is all you need. We offer high-quality HVAC services in Daytona Beach, FL, at affordable prices. Our goal is to make sure your home is always at a comfortable temperature throughout the year. We repair, maintain, and install air conditioners and heating systems. Call us today to learn more about our services!