Since summer is finally over, it’s now time to turn on your furnace and get your external AC unit ready for the upcoming frosty nights. Fall is the perfect time to schedule maintenance for your HVAC system to ensure it’s prepared for extreme weather. You’ve likely also heard some debate about whether or not you should cover your outdoor AC unit. Here’s everything you need to know about protecting your air conditioner this winter.
Benefits of Covering AC Unit
Many modern AC units are manufactured to withstand extreme heat, cold and precipitation. Older systems typically benefit the most from being covered as they’ve weakened over time and need extra protection. However, no matter the age of your unit, it will likely be safer from snow, ice and pests when properly covered. AC unit covers help keep debris from building up on or near your system.
Branches, snow, leaves and even mulch are easily blown around during winter storms. These items can whip around your unit, damaging the fins and external cover. You and your family are less likely to be outside from November through April, making it easier for hard objects to damage your unit without you noticing.
Covers keep any excessive weight from piling up on your unit’s fragile coils. They also keep water away from your AC unit, minimizing the risk of dangerous ice growth. Keeping your coils clean and protected can help to lengthen your air conditioner’s overall lifespan. You’ll be less likely to have any expensive maintenance or repair needs when spring finally rolls around.
Finally, if you have a permanent window unit, a cover can stop cold drafts from unexpectedly entering your home. Air leaks are one of the leading causes of increased energy costs and furnace strain. Securing your windows, doors and vents from air leaks will ensure that you and your family stay comfortable through the cold winter months.
Negatives of Covering AC Unit
While there are many benefits to covering your AC unit, you could face a few problems if the cover isn’t used correctly. Just because winter is approaching doesn’t mean the temperatures will immediately dip into freezing. Instead, you’ll see frequent temperature fluctuations where it will feel warm on some days and colder on others. These changes allow condensation to form inside your AC unit. When the moisture becomes trapped inside your system, it can accumulate and cause rust. This moisture may settle on the coils, circuit boards and wiring, which is detrimental to the system’s lifespan.
AC units are also meant to have direct access to an open-air environment. If moisture is trapped inside, mold can grow between the electrical components and fins. Excessive mold growth will impact your AC unit’s efficiency and safety. It will also lower your indoor air quality and create further humidity issues in the home.
If your cover becomes loose at any point, squirrels, rats or other rodents may make nests inside. Animals are always looking for secure, warm places out of the snow to sleep. Rodents are particularly dangerous as they will chew through the AC unit’s wiring and scratch up the metal. Using a cover can protect against many HVAC system issues as long as it’s properly utilized and monitored over time.
Choosing the Right Cover
AC unit covers are most commonly made out of tough polyester or vinyl. You can choose from options that only stretch over the top or cover the entire unit. A partial cover is often enough in environments where it doesn’t snow or rain often during the winter. It’s important to make sure you get a cover made for your specific air conditioner rather than opting for a size that’s too big. The more room available in the cover, the higher your chances of it blowing away or letting in pests.
Some homeowners choose to build a cover out of lightwood wood or lattice. You may want to create a shed around your unit or aesthetically hide it away. While this can add a decorative effect to your landscaping, it may not be the most secure way to protect the unit. Building a permanent structure on or near your AC unit may also impede its airflow when you turn it on next year.
It’s best to use a temporary cover that seals off gaps to keep water, leaves and seeds from getting inside. The best heavyweight cover options are lined with fleece and are easy to get on and take off. Rather than opting for the cheapest option, search for high-quality covers designed to last a few years.
Securing Your HVAC System
Once you’ve decided on an AC unit cover, it’s time to prepare your unit for winter. After turning your AC off for the season, take the time to thoroughly spray it down. Remove the top of the unit and vacuum out any debris, rocks, leaves or sticks. Be sure to wrap any wiring or electrical components in plastic before using your water hose. Never use a pressure sprayer or a high-pressure nozzle when cleaning your AC unit.
After the unit has been cleaned and reassembled, call for maintenance. Your air conditioner has been working hard all summer to keep your home cool. Scheduling service at the end of the season allows a technician to check for any internal issues like loose wiring, low refrigerant levels or water leaks. These problems will only worsen with time if not corrected before the winter.
It’s best to cover your AC unit before the first snowfall of the season. Push back any tree branches or shrubbery to ensure they won’t rest their weight on the unit. Once your cover is in place, make sure you check it about once a month for snowfall and debris. You should also monitor the area for any signs of pests, like feces or prints in the snow.
Consulting With Experts
Covering your AC unit through the cold season is a great way to protect it from freezing temperatures, snow and debris. Regularly checking on the cover will ensure that you minimize any future moisture issues or rodent problems. If you’re not sure how to choose the best cover for your unit, call for expert advice from your local HVAC technicians.
These experts know how to maintain and repair your AC unit as well as protect it against adverse weather. Investing in the care and protection of your air conditioner is the best way to maximize its lifespan and efficiency over the years.
Trusted Heating and Cooling Company
Trusted Heating & Cooling proudly offers top-quality HVAC services in Austin, TX. You can always count on our team’s integrity, experience and honesty. We’re passionate about our craft and maintain an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau. All of our lead installers and technicians have at least 10 years of hands-on experience. Trust us to take care of all your HVAC maintenance, repairs and installations. We can also install a new ductless air conditioner, clean and service your ductwork or boost your home’s air quality. Schedule your service appointment today.