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Should You Cover Your A/C Unit During the Winter in Portland

As summer transitions to fall, you may notice advertisements for air conditioning covers. Because the unit should be free of debris, such as leaves, it’s natural to wonder if a cover is really worth the investment and effort. Unfortunately, there is no right answer. By being aware of the pros and cons of using an A/C cover during the winter, you can make an educated choice about the best course of action for your comfort. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask a specialist during your fall HVAC maintenance.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Covering an A/C for the Winter

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Advantages

During the autumn, home maintenance tasks include winterization to protect the dwelling from the elements and prevent energy losses. Just as you prepare your home for the cold weather, it makes sense to prepare your A/C, too. Reasons homeowners choose to cover their outdoor A/C equipment include:

  • Keep leaves out: When leaves, dust, and debris get caught in condenser coil fins, the A/C will have trouble releasing heat during the summer. Keeping the coils clean helps the equipment run more efficiently and effectively.
  • Protect against snow accumulation: A light layer of snow on an air conditioner is OK. Problems occur when snow encases a unit, especially if it turns to ice, as it can damage the fan blades and coil fins. For those living in areas likely to experience snowy winters, it may be wise to use a cover to shield an air conditioner against snow and ice.
  • Falling ice protection: When icicles form along a roof, fascia or gutter, those overhanging an air conditioner could damage the unit if they fall. A cover helps protect the equipment’s delicate components.
  • Ice formation prevention: Water expands when it freezes. When water enters the unit and freezes, it can expand and damage the fins.
  • Extend the air conditioner’s life: If snow accumulation, ice formation, and debris are common in your area, covering the A/C may add years to its life.

Disadvantages

  • Pest problems: When the weather gets cold, critters seek shelter from the elements. Incidentally, a full air conditioner cover might create a great habitat for rodents, birds, and other pests. If having pests near your home isn’t bad enough, they often chew through a variety of materials, such as wiring, plastic, and fabric. It’s not unusual for Portland HVAC maintenance experts to receive calls in the spring related to pest-related damage. It’s important to keep in mind that if a cover is not in place, leaves, debris and ice could damage an air conditioner.
  • Moisture may still penetrate the air conditioner: While a full cover protects an air conditioner against water, moisture may still enter a unit if condensation occurs. Because a cover restricts airflow, a little bit of moisture might be enough for mold or mildew to develop and infiltrate your home. Mold not only poses health risks, it might also reduce an air conditioner’s efficiency. Moisture also promotes damaging corrosion.

Regional Considerations

Manufacturers design air conditioners to withstand the elements. Because the units are close to houses and often partially or entirely covered, they have some protection.

In warmer areas, like Florida, a cover might not be necessary as homeowners are likely to use their air conditioners well into the winter months. However, in areas that experience weeks of freezing temperatures and several feet of snow, it might be a good idea to shelter the air conditioner.

We invite you to learn more about residential air conditioners and the services we offer!

Portland HVAC Maintenance: How to Cover a Residential Air Conditioner

While many types of air conditioner covers are available on the market, HVAC experts often recommend against wrapping the unit with plastic, including plastic A/C covers, garbage bags and tarps. If you want a traditional cover, look for one made of a breathable material and only cover the top of the unit. In lieu of a cover, specialists often recommend placing a piece of plywood over the top of the air conditioner and anchoring it with a heavy rock or brick.

Before covering a your residential air conditioner, follow the manufacturer’s recommendations on how to prepare the unit. They might instruct to clean the condensing coils, leave at least 12 inches of coil exposed to promote airflow, or shut off the electricity to the unit.

One of the best ways to prepare your air conditioner for the winter is with fall HVAC maintenance. When a specialist from AAA Heating & Cooling visits your home, they will inspect, test and clean the components of your equipment, and verify that your thermostat is at the appropriate winter settings. The professional can also give you personalized tips about how to best protect and care for your air conditioner during the cold months. Contact AAA Heating & Cooling to set up your maintenance appointment today.