Should homeowners cover their air conditioners during the winter? This deceptively simple question has divided HVAC technicians for years, with everybody claiming that there is only one right answer.
However, the truth lies somewhere in between. This article recaps the pros and cons of covering an AC unit during the winter and closes by giving useful tips on how to do it without causing any damage.
Although the winter season can give air conditioners some much-needed rest, it also comes with some challenges of its own. Falling leaves, snow, and ice can all get into the condensing unit and damage it, which brings up the question of whether you should or shouldn’t cover your AC unit during the cold season.
In this article, we’ll start by explaining the arguments for leaving it uncovered, follow with the pros of covering your AC unit, and end by explaining the safest way to do it.
Why leave your AC unit uncovered?
Some experts believe that air conditioners are designed to be able to withstand the harsh winter season, so they don’t need any special protection. When your AC is on, it sucks the air in the environment, but also dirt and debrief. However, since it’s off during the winter season, there’s no way that dirt can get in.
Adding extra protective measures to an AC could do more harm than good, as it often helps to trap moisture inside it. This, in turn, creates a high-humidity environment which, when hit by the sun rays, could damage key electronic components, such as circuit boards or wiring connections, and force you to pay for expensive repairs when the summer begins.
A further downside of covering your air conditioner is that it creates a perfect environment for small animals. The warm, protected environment under your AC’s cover makes a perfect home for rodents looking to shelter themselves from the chilly temperatures. Once in, these animals will often chew off the wiring harness to use it as bedding, leaving you a costly mess you’ll have to fix when the summer arrives.
Why cover your air conditioner during the winter?
On the other side of the coin, covering your AC can impede dried leaves and leaves from getting caught in the delicate fins of your unit’s condenser coil. Furthermore, covering your unit can protect it from the damaging effects of snow and ice. While a thin layer of frost won’t do anything to it, thick concentrations of ice or snow can damage the AC’s fan blades or the coil fins.
Covering your air conditioner protects sensitive parts, such as the coil fins, from being damaged by falling ice, which can hit it with an incredible amount force depending on the height of the fall. But even if it’s just water dripping into your AC, if it gets inside the unit, it will freeze and expand as the temperature drops, potentially damaging the fins or other sensible parts.
The right way to cover your air conditioner
If you do decide to cover your AC, it’s important you do it right to avoid damaging it. For starters, you should never use plastic covers because air conditioners need to breathe otherwise humidity and rust can build inside them.
Never cover your air conditioner completely. Instead, simply put a cover on top of it and make sure it doesn’t drop more than 6 inches. This will offer plenty of protection from ice and water without restricting the airflow.
If your air conditioner is in real danger of being damaged by falling ice, you can protect it by putting plywood on top of it. Alternatively, you could also build a small shelter for it after making sure to clear as much as possible the vegetation on top of it from which ice and water falls.
Whether you decide to cover or not your air conditioner during the winter, it’s important that you keep it safe from debris, ice, water, and other damaging agents outside your house. So make sure you clear nearby vegetation and have your trusted technician check your AC unit when winter is over to ensure it’ll work well throughout the summer.
Should You Cover Your Air Conditioner During the Winter?