How can I protect my air conditioner for the winter?

weather beaten ac unit

As it gets closer (at least on the calendar) to the winter months and cold weather, and the outdoor temperatures get lower and lower, we will most likely be running our A/C unit less and less. Just like a grill in the backyard that we cover when we aren’t using it, shouldn’t you cover your air conditioner when it’s not being used?

It sounds logical, at least in theory, right? I mean, if we aren’t using something, why not cover it up and protect it from the elements?

 

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As it gets closer (at least on the calendar) to the winter months and cold weather, and the outdoor temperatures get lower and lower, we will most likely be running our A/C unit less and less. Just like a grill in the backyard that we cover when we aren’t using it, shouldn’t you cover your air conditioner when it’s not being used?

It sounds logical, at least in theory, right? I mean, if we aren’t using something, why not cover it up and protect it from the elements?

 

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I hear what you are saying, but let’s take a few minutes to examine this in a little more detail. There are some pro’s and con’s along with some do’s and don’ts which I will cover below.

First off, and I can’t stress this enough, it’s critical to know exactly what type of heating and cooling system you have.

If you have a heat pump (that is you don’t have natural gas or an LP tank in your home) OR ANY type of package unit (one BIG Heat+A/C unit outside) DO NOT COVER YOUR A/C UNIT! The “condensing unit” or outdoor air conditioner runs year round whether the system is in heating or cooling mode. If you cover it, at best your heat pump won’t heat correctly and at worse you will cause expensive repairs and require a repair call.

That said, if you don’t have a heat pump, read on. There is a lot of writing and opinion on whether or not to cover your air conditioner during the winter. These articles, written by non-biased parties tend to agree that while it is not a bad idea to cover the air conditioner in the winter, some care must be taken.

 

Covering your air conditioner

Pro:

  • Can keep leaves, branches and debris out of the unit. While this is cleaned out during spring maintenance, it can cause issues between visits.
  • Can protect the condenser from snow, ice, and hail damage.

Con:

  • Can trap moisture in the condenser and cause rusting and electronic part failure.
  • Rodents and small animals can nest in the condenser and chew wires which could cause damage to critical (and expensive) parts.

Do:

  • Use a cover that only covers the top of the condenser.
  • Be sure to take the cover OFF in the Spring!

Don’t:

  • Use a cover that completely covers the condenser and can trap moisture and invite animals to nest inside.
  • Don’t forget to take the cover OFF in the Spring!
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Protect Your Air Conditioner 

During my years as a service technician, I have seen customers go to various lengths to protect their air conditioners during the winter months – some simple, some elaborate. Some homemade, some store bought.

It is my opinion, based one part on experience and one part in practicality, that if you cover your air conditioner, you should do it correctly.

If you are a do-it-yourselfer, this can be as simple as putting a piece of plywood over the top of the air conditioner or taking a screen mesh and weighing it down with some bricks.

If you prefer to go the store-bought route, there are a variety of online vendors that sell several styles. As stated above, it is recommended to NOT cover the entire air conditioner and only cover the top. Fortunately, that style tends to be less expensive.

As in all things, a little common sense goes a long way here. If your condenser is protected from the elements due to location, construction, or just good luck then you probably don’t need to cover it.

 

If your condenser is under a Crepe Myrtle, Pine or Oak tree or tends to get a lot of water runoff during the winter, the small upfront cost of any kind of cover may prevent issues and repairs down the road! If you have any questions about any of this, please call us at 803-794-5526

 

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Phone: (803) 794-5526

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