Homeowners should do everything that they possibly can to protect their property and the appliances that keep it sustainable and comfortable. As such, many folks feel that it is a good idea to cover their air conditioning unit throughout the fall and winter months. Now that summer is officially over, let’s dive into whether or not this is practical or recommended.
Is Covering Your Air Conditioning Unit Helpful?
This is a common question, and it has been sparking a debate in the HVAC field for quite a while now. Obviously, on the surface, it seems to make sense. If you live in an area that cools off significantly in the winter, you won’t need to power up the unit until spring. So, protecting it from the outside elements seems to be a sound idea.
With that said, a great deal of air conditioning experts disagree with this assumption and feel that covering units is unnecessary. They argue that modern air conditioning units have been built to withstand snow, ice, extreme temperatures, and wind gusts. This is true, but there still are instances when it may be advisable to cover your unit.
When Should You Cover Your Air Conditioning Unit?
Even though there have been numerous modern technological advances in recent history that have rendered units to be more sturdy and tough, they still aren’t completely weatherproof. Strangely enough, your air conditioning unit may even be more vulnerable in the fall than in the winter.
This may sound ridiculous, but while your unit is manufactured to stand up to inclement weather, it is not designed for protection against falling leaves, acorns, seeds, and other yard debris that is commonly found outside throughout the autumn months. If raking has become a never-ending chore in your household, then just imagine how much tree litter is cluttering the insides of your air conditioner. These bits and pieces accumulate, collect moisture, and ultimately lead to internal corrosion of the unit. They may even block the mechanism designed to drain fluid.
Covering your AC can prevent debris buildup and ensure that your unit is ready to go next spring. If twigs, leaves, and other natural debris have already collected inside your AC unit, you’ll want to schedule a maintenance appointment to have it cleaned. Fall maintenance is something you will want to schedule anyway to ensure that your AC is shut down correctly and your furnace is ready to keep you warm during the winter months.
Another reason to cover an AC unit is to protect it from snow and ice. This is particularly true in the northern part of the country where some areas experience very cold winters and relatively cool summers. In these areas, homeowners may only use their AC for a couple of months out of the year. Keeping it covered the rest of the time can prevent snow and ice buildup, which can damage the coils over time.
Why Should You Refrain From Covering Your Air Conditioning Unit?
Again, as mentioned before, the use of AC covers is not something that many HVAC companies encourage. So, while it may seem reasonable to protect your unit while it isn’t in use, there are also sound arguments against the practice. The following covers a few of them.
Covers Don’t Keep Everything at Bay
Protection from snow, moisture, and ice are the main reasons that most homeowners cover their air conditioning units. However, as we have noted, these newer models are already manufactured with a durable metal covering that is non-corrosive. In other words, they are crafted to be outdoors year-round.
Dirt and debris are still able to penetrate the tiny crevices of the unit anyway, so can a cover really add any more protection than the metal that it is encased in? Many professionals feel that it doesn’t, and its placement is redundant at best and a waste of time at worst. That said, a cover would be a logical defense for older, unprotected units.
Covers Can Actually Create Issues
Between condensation, humidity, and other natural processes, there really is no way to be sure that your unit will remain bone dry regardless of the precautions you take. So, assuming moisture will seep into your air conditioning unit whether you cover it or not, if you do use a cover, it will trap that dampness, leading to dangerous mold and mildew inside your unit.
Another danger of trapped moisture is that it will cause the inside of your unit to rust. With enough rust accumulated on the critical components of the unit, it will cease to function properly and require maintenance or replacement.
Covers Attract Unwelcome Guests
Many times, homeowners feel that covering their air conditioning units discourages animals, such as rats and other pests, from nesting inside of them. However, nothing can be further from the truth. These covers make a warm and cozy respite from the cold for small creatures such as mice, squirrels, and even chipmunks. After all, rodents are adept at squeezing into the tightest of spots to seek out shelter, water, or food. So, you are in essence leaving them an open invitation.
What’s the Best Way to Cover an Air Conditioning Unit?
If you do choose to cover your unit, it’s important that you keep a few things in mind to ensure that your cover it appropriately and avoid actually damaging your unit instead of protecting it. First, never use any type of plastic or air-restrictive covering over your unit. Without airflow, the cover will promote moisture buildup and rusting. These cozy, water-tight units also create the inviting home for pests that we talked about in the previous section.
Instead, you want to use a cover that is protective but still breathable. Some AC manufacturers offer breathable wraps as an accessory for their AC units. These wraps attach to the top of the unit and create a barrier against leaves, twigs, and other debris. They also help redirect water while allowing for proper airflow, so they are great at preventing moisture-related issues. It’s also important to note that AC covers should only cover the top of the unit, and you really only need to cover the AC in the fall. Winters in our part of the country get cold and snowy, but not cold or snowy enough to damage your AC unit.
Call Us Today for All Your HVAC Needs
If you are looking for more information about how to protect your AC during the off-season, our team at Absolute Air can help. We provide thorough fall maintenance services to keep both your AC and heating system in great shape. If you want to cover your AC unit, we can help you find the right cover for your model and install it correctly. Our team can also help with any AC and heating repairs you might need. Plus, when it’s time for a new unit, we can install it for you. Our other services include indoor air quality, duct cleaning, and water heater installation and repair. We have offices in Morgantown, WV and Pittsburgh, PA, and we are proud to serve the residents of both communities and the surrounding areas.