With fall weather approaching, it won’t be long before it’s time to turn off the AC for the season. Homeowners often ask if it’s worth it to cover their outside unit for the winter months. While many HVAC pros say it’s not absolutely necessary, it's worth a discussion. Here are some of the reasons both for and against investing in an air conditioner cover.
Reasons to Cover Your AC
- A cover is inexpensive. Depending on the size and shape of your unit and the style and material of the cover itself, cover prices can range from about $25 - $100. Many come with several-year warranties, and of course, they’re reusable. You can shop for Carrier covers right online.
- A cover will protect your unit from the elements. Outdoor AC units are built to withstand most climate and weather conditions. However, in the upper Midwest, we can get some pretty harsh conditions. Hail can be a particular problem and a cover will help save your unit from serious damage. Blizzards, with their drifts and piled-up snow, can also be a problem. As the accumulated snow melts, it can drip into your unit, potentially damaging the coils. Guarding against those hazards is probably the number one reason so many Minnesotans choose to invest in a cover.
- A cover will prevent dirt and debris from accumulating inside your unit. Falling leaves, small branches, and dirt can all get blown inside your unit. This isn’t a problem in and of itself, but having a cover will keep the accumulation to a minimum. And that means less work cleaning out your unit in the spring.
Considerations if You Cover Your AC
- Never start your unit with a cover on. Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind is that you should never start up your unit with a cover on. That can potentially do serious damage to the compressor. Keith Hill, resident HVAC expert at Stay Comfy, has a fool-proof solution. “I’d recommend shutting off the high voltage power at the outdoor unit if you cover it. It forces you to go to the unit to start it in the spring, that way you will never accidentally turn on a covered unit,” he says.
- Nesting critters. Covering your unit creates just enough warmth and protection from the elements that it can attract mice and other small “guests” to hunker down for the winter. That means clean-up in the spring at the least. At worst, you could face repairs if the winter tenants nibble on wires or other parts.
- Moisture, mold, and mildew. While a cover can keep snow and rain out, it can also potentially trap moisture inside. That can lead to mold and mildew forming, or potentially even corrosion of electrical components. If you choose to cover your unit, make sure to select a cover that breathes like the ones available through your Carrier dealer. Stay away from plastic covers, they do not breathe.
Whether you choose to cover or not cover, now is a good time for an annual inspection of your whole system. You can find a reputable HVAC pro in your area by using our convenient dealer locator.