Does My Air Conditioning Unit Need A Cover In The Winter?

ac unit in winter without an air conditioner cover

As winter approaches, you should identify areas of your home that require winterization. In general, the process of winterization involves everything from cleaning gutters, scheduling professional HVAC maintenance to insulating outdoor faucets. While taking measures to prepare your home for winter, you should pay particular attention to your air conditioning unit because it will determine your indoor comfort levels when the weather warms up once again. Many homeowners ask us about whether or not they should use an air conditioner cover. In this article, we discuss more on this topic.

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Does My Air Conditioning Unit Need a Cover in the Winter?

The simple answer is no. Regardless of the harsh weather associated with winter, you don’t necessarily need to cover your air conditioner as part of your winterization strategy. Although many opinions surround this issue, air conditioners are designed to withstand extreme weather conditions for long periods. For instance, the condenser is deliberately made using a durable and long-lasting finish to make an air conditioner suitable for outdoor use. It can withstand rain, snow, hail, sleet, and other weather conditions. Even inner parts such as coils can withstand extreme weather, and hence, there’s no need to cover your air conditioners in winter.

Why Some Homeowners Think They Should Cover Their Air Conditioners

While manufacturers typically advise against covering air conditioning units in winter, many believe that covering air conditioners has some benefits including:

  • It helps protect an air conditioner from debris.
  • Many believe that it helps keep an air conditioning unit working efficiently because it prevents long-term wear and tear that may result from the accumulation of debris and moisture.
  • It prevents water from coming into direct contact with the coils, reducing the chances of electrical faults such as short circuits.

Why Covering Your Air Conditioner is a Bad Idea

image of a fan on air conditioner condenser that is rusty

Despite the benefits mentioned above, experts still insist on leaving an air conditioner uncovered in winter. This is because, apart from its ability to withstand extreme winter weather, an air conditioner is also designed to operate in the open. This means that covering your unit will create ideal conditions for moisture to accumulate, something that can damage your AC in the long term. Other disadvantages of covering your air conditioner in winter include, among others:

  • Any moisture trapped under the cover can cause rust and corrosion in the metallic parts of an air conditioner
  • The humid environment created by the cover can damage electrical components
  • Since an air conditioner is designed to work in the open air, covering it will likely block the flow of air and encourage the growth of mold and mildew.
  • The covering will likely attract rodents and other animals looking for a conducive living environment in winter. Even worse, rodents can chew on your AC’s electrical wires, causing your unit to malfunction.
  • Manufacturers do not recommend covering air conditioners, and this may void the warranty
  • Covering may cause temperatures around an air conditioner to drop further, and this may result in the freezing of the AC coils.

By covering your air conditioner, you’ll expose it to potential damage. If you must cover it, then ensure you use a breathable cover that will allow air to circulate freely. However, as mentioned above, this may attract rodents to take up residence in your air conditioner. Therefore, a better option would be to build an overhead structure to shield your air conditioner against falling leaves, sticks, seeds, and other debris. This way, your AC will have enough breathing space and still be free from rodents.

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Tips to Protect Your Air Conditioner in Winter

image of an hvac contractor performing air conditioner tune-up

A typical air conditioner is designed to withstand harsh weather conditions. However, falling ice and snow can cause can lower an air conditioner’s efficiency, especially if it gets stuck inside for a relatively long period of time. As such, you need to devise ways of protecting this appliance, preferably those that don’t involve covering it tightly. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

  • Put plywood on top of an air conditioner and weigh it down using bricks and rocks to prevent the entry of falling ice and snow.
  • Extend your awning to cover the entire surface of your air conditioner.
  • Plant trees and shrubs around your air conditioner to block heavy winds that may push snow inside the unit.
  • Build a shade over your air conditioner to provide protection both in summer and winter.
  • Have a professional HVAC contractor inspect it in winter and fix the issues if any.
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Is it Advisable to Run Your Air Conditioner in Winter?

The short answer is no. Typically, air conditioners with condenser units are specifically designed to work in warm weather. This is because the outdoor portion (condenser) uses an oil-based lubricant to lubricate the compressor. In sub-zero temperatures, this oil can freeze, and therefore, lose its ability to lubricate the compressor properly. If this happens, an air conditioner will work extra hard to pump air. In turn, it consumes more energy and wears out faster. In case temperatures aren’t extremely low in winter, you can turn down your heating system, based on your needs.

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Covering your air conditioning unit in winter is likely to do more harm than good. With this in mind, you should leave your air conditioner alone when winterizing your home. For more information about what you can do to prepare your HVAC unit for winter, talk to a professional HVAC contractor.

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McAllister Energy

McAllister Energy offers high-quality HVAC services in Camden County, New Jersey. We hire only the best professionally certified technicians who conduct superior heating and cooling services. Some of our HVAC services include HVAC maintenance, heating and cooling installations, repairs, ductless systems, energy audits, and much more. All our techs provide accurate HVAC services on time, every time.

Our company guarantees affordable heating and cooling service rates. Our maintenance services can increase your home’s comfort, energy efficiency, and cost-effectiveness. We can also provide you with a highly energy-efficient HVAC replacement system that fits your budget. Your satisfaction is important to us, so all our work comes with a guarantee. Book a service appointment with McAllister Energy today. We provide free, in-home estimates.

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