A few cool nights turn into a few cool days, and before you know it, the summer heat is done and so is the use of your air conditioner. That may have you wondering what to do next? How do you winterize your AC? Should you cover your air conditioner? The answer depends on a few factors and it’s up to you to weigh the pros and cons.
We will start with the reasons for keeping it covered when winter rolls around.
First, covering your AC will offer protection from the elements. Dirt and debris won’t fall inside the outdoor unit as easily as an uncovered one. That means less of a chance that you’ll get twigs, branches, or leaves inside your AC over the fall and winter when they tend to blow around, fall off trees, or roll off your roof.
A covered AC will also stop snow from accumulating on the unit. In Minnesota, we are no stranger to high snow drifts or even blizzards that can leave several feet accrued outside. As that melts and re-freezes, it may leave unwanted moisture dripping into your unit – and moisture isn’t good for machinery. Ice can damage the coils and you may just want to avoid taking a chance. That being said, most HVAC equipment is made to withstand varying weather conditions, but things like hail and blizzards are especially destructive.
According to Angieslist.com, some people have had to replace the top part of their outdoor AC units if placed under the roof line, because falling ice and other debris can land on top and cause damage.
A covered unit can keep it looking better in the long run – cleaner, newer, and potentially better protected, but there are cons to covering it too.
Keith Hill, technical support manager at Minnesota Air says that if you forget to uncover it before you turn it on, you will do damage, possibly serious damage to the compressor.
“I’d recommend shutting off the high voltage power at the outdoor unit — disconnect 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. “If there is more than one (person) in the household, it may be your significant other that starts the unit and is unaware of the cover.”
Another issue with covering it to protect it from the elements is that you’ve now created the perfect hideaway for mice and other critters looking for a cozy place to escape from winter weather. They may nest inside or chew on wiring or other components, leaving you with making expensive repairs come spring.
A final issue with covers is that they potentially trap moisture inside, says Keith.
“(Trapped moisture) creates a sauna effect and can accelerate corrosion of the electrical components,” he says.
Trapped moisture can also mean more mold and mildew growing on the inside, and can block airflow according to the ENERGYSTAR website.
Keith suggests that if you do cover the unit, that you use a cover that “breathes,” or only cover the top of the unit to allow air movement through the coils and control box.