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

ac unit in winter without an air conditioner cover

The winter season means you should determine the areas in your home that need to be prioritized. Generally, the winterization process includes insulating outdoor faucets, cleaning gutters, addressing air drafts, booking professional HVAC service, and more. You should pay special attention to your air conditioner as you prepare your home for winter. This is because it will determine your home’s comfort level when summer arrives. Many homeowners ask if they should or shouldn’t use an air conditioner cover. Read on to learn more about this topic.

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

No, you do not need a cover for your air conditioner in the winter. Despite the harsh winter weather, it isn’t required to cover your air conditioning unit as part of your winterization process. Many opinions surround this issue, but remember that air conditioners were built to endure extreme weather conditions for long periods. For example, the condenser was made using a durable and long-lasting finish so that the air conditioner can be used outdoors. It can withstand weather conditions such as snow, sleet, hail, and rain. Even inner components like the coils can withstand extreme weather. Therefore, you do not need to cover your air conditioning unit during the winter season.

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Reasons Some Homeowners Think They Need To Cover Their Air Conditioners

Manufacturers do not recommend covering air conditioners in winter. However, many people still think that covering their air conditioners offers a few benefits:

  • A cover protects their air conditioner from debris.
  • Many believe a cover helps keep their air conditioner working efficiently as it prevents wear and tear that may be caused by debris and moisture buildup.
  • It keeps water from directly touching the coils, lowering the chances of electrical faults like short circuits.

Related Article: Why Is My AC Compressor Working But Not Cooling?

Why Covering Your Air Conditioner is a Bad Idea

image of a fan on air conditioner condenser that is rusty

Regardless of the pros listed above, experts still insist that air conditioners remain uncovered in winter. Aside from the air conditioner’s ability to endure extreme weather, it is also created to run in the open. Therefore, covering your air conditioner will create the ideal condition to allow moisture to build up, and this can damage your unit down the line. Covering your air conditioner in winter has other cons, including:

  • Moisture captured under the cover can result in the air conditioner’s metallic components rusting and corroding.
  • The cover creates a humid environment which can cause electrical parts damage.
  • An air conditioner is built to operate in the open air, so covering it will block the airflow and stimulate mold and mildew to grow.
  • The cover can attract rodents and other small critters looking for shelter in winter. Worse, these rodents can gnaw on the electrical wires of your air conditioner, causing a malfunction in the unit.
  • Manufacturers don’t recommend putting air conditioner covers in your unit. Doing so may void the warranty.
  • Covering your AC can result in further temperature drop, which may cause frozen air conditioner coils.

You expose your air conditioner to potential damage when you cover it. If you need to cover it, use a breathable cover so air can still circulate freely. However, this may still attract rodents to make your air conditioner their home. A better alternative is to build an overhead structure so your air conditioner is shielded from falling debris, like sticks, leaves, and seeds. This will help your air conditioner to have sufficient breathing space while still being rodent-free.

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Related Article: What To Do If Your Air Conditioner Starts Leaking Water

Tips to Protect Your Air Conditioner in Winter

image of an hvac contractor performing an air conditioner tune-up

As mentioned above, standard air conditioners are built to withstand harsh weather conditions. However, snow and falling ice can reduce the efficiency of your air conditioner, especially if it gets stuck inside for quite some time. Therefore, you need to do something to protect your air conditioner, preferably in a way that doesn’t cover the unit tightly. Here are several recommendations to help you:

  • Place the plywood on top of the air conditioning unit and use bricks and rocks to weigh it down. This will keep falling ice and snow from entering your air conditioner.
  • Extend the awning so the entire air conditioner surface is covered.
  • Plant trees and shrubs around the perimeter of your air conditioner. This helps block heavy winds that may force snow into the unit. However, be sure to be mindful of proper clearance around the unit for airflow.
  • Protect your air conditioner in the summer and winter by building a shade over it.
  • Hire an HVAC professional to inspect your air conditioner in winter and repair any issues.
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Related Article: Air Conditioner Makes Loud Noise When Starting

Should You Run Your Air Conditioner in Winter?

Simply put, no, it is not advisable to run your air conditioner in winter. Air conditioners with condensers were specially designed to operate in warm weather. The condenser, which is placed outdoors, uses an oil-based lubricant for compressor lubrication. Sub-zero temperatures can cause the oil to freeze, making it unable to lubricate the compressor properly. If this occurs, your air conditioner will work harder to pump air. This causes the air conditioner to have higher energy consumption. It will also wear out faster. You can turn down the temperature of your heating system per your needs if the outdoor temperatures aren’t extremely low in winter.

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Putting a cover on your air conditioner in winter tends to do more harm than good. Therefore, leave your air conditioning unit to itself when conducting your winterization strategy. Talk to your local, trusted HVAC professional to learn more about what you can do to prepare your heating and cooling unit for winter.

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