Is It a Smart Move to Cover Your Air Conditioning Unit During the Winter?
As the summer months in Cincinnati give way to fall and winter, you will probably power down your AC unit and turn on the heater. However, before letting your air conditioning unit rest for the winter, you need to think about its maintenance so that it works as it should next summer.
Many homeowners question if it is a smart idea to cover their air conditioning unit during the winter. The answer will depend on several factors.
Circumstances When You Do Not Want to Cover Your AC Unit During the Winter
You should not cover your AC unit if the climate is warm enough to use it during the winter. While this might be the case in parts of Florida, this isn’t the case in Cincinnati, where winter temperatures range around 40°F.
A second scenario that could apply in the Cincinnati area is if you have a heat pump. A heat pump transfers indoor heat outside to cool the home during the summer. However, come winter, you will use the same unit to transfer heat from outside to a warm home. In that case, you don’t want to cover the outdoor condenser because it will block airflow, and the unit will not function as it should.
Whole-house air conditioning units are built to be outside all year. They are manufactured and tested to endure harsh winters. Still, there are some scenarios where you would consider covering the outdoor condenser unit.
Large Icicles Above the Outdoor Condenser
If your AC unit sits under a part of your roof that typically forms icicles, you may want to cover the top of the unit with a sturdy protective material, like plywood. If icicles fall, they will hit the plywood, not the AC unit.
Proximity to Trees and Shrubbery
If your AC unit sits under trees or has shrubbery nearby, it is possible that pine needles, leaves, twigs, and other foliage could fall during the autumn months and fill the inside of the unit with debris. Covering the unit can prevent leaves and other shrubbery from entering the condenser. This will make it much easier for your HVAC technician to do spring maintenance and ensure that moisture and gunk do not accumulate inside and around your unit.
If your area is prone to heavy precipitation, you might want to cover the AC unit to keep it dry. The outdoor condenser is designed to withstand snowfall. However, snow can weigh up to 20 pounds per cubic foot. The weight of excessive snowfall could damage the exterior of your unit. It’s better to place a piece of plywood on top of the unit, as this will help to evenly distribute the weight of the fallen snow until you can remove it.
Another issue with snow is that if it gets inside the condenser unit, it could melt on warmer days and then refreeze when the temperature drops. This makes your AC unit susceptible to ice and freeze-thaw cycles, damaging some of its components.
How Not to Cover Your AC Unit
You might think the best way to cover your AC unit is to wrap it in plastic or waterproof material until the spring. No material can prevent 100% of the moisture from entering the condenser unit during the winter. However, plastic or other non-breathable materials can trap moisture inside the condenser.
This can lead to rust, mold, and mildew growth. Additionally, wrapping your AC unit in plastic or similar materials can make it the perfect home for rats, mice, and other critters looking to escape the cold of winter.
When covering your AC unit, use a protective yet breathable material that will not trap moisture inside. Instead of wrapping the entire unit, focus on just covering the top of it. You can use a piece of plywood or a tarp that does not go further down than six inches from the top. Talk to our HVAC technicians about recommendations for specially designed AC covers that are right for your unit.
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