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Should You Cover Your Outdoor Air Conditioning Unit in the Winter?

Autumn has arrived in Sacramento, and winter is following close behind. As the leaves drop and cold temperatures creep in, homeowners start thinking about winterizing their homes. But what about winterizing your air conditioner? How do rain, cold, dirt, and debris affect your outdoor AC unit? And, most important, should you cover an AC in winter? Knowing the answers to these questions can help you prepare your AC unit for the cold and decide if an air conditioner cover for winter is worth the investment.

How Do Winter Conditions Affect Outdoor AC Units?

AC units were built to withstand the rain and cold of the winter. All external HVAC equipment is made to deal with harsh weather conditions and varying temperature extremes. In short, outdoor AC units are tough! Plus, Sacramento isn’t known for harsh winter weather conditions. For example, we don’t get a foot of snow or baseball-sized hail like they do in the Midwestern states.

Even in tougher conditions, rain, hail, sleet, and snow are no match for an AC unit. They’re more reliable than the mailman! Despite this fact, covering your outdoor AC unit during the fall and winter months has been the subject of debate in the HVAC industry for many years. You can read on or watch our video below to explore the pros and cons of covering your AC unit.

Is It Good to Cover Your Air Conditioner in the Winter?

Though air conditioners are very durable, you might still be wondering, “Should you cover an AC in winter?” Before you make a decision, it’s important you know the benefits and disadvantages of AC covers. Learn more about if you should cover your AC in the winter by reviewing the top pros and cons below:

Cons of Covering Outdoor AC Unit for Winter

Since AC units tend to withstand winter conditions with ease, it might come as no surprise that AC covers might be more trouble than they’re worth. Check out the following disadvantages of air conditioner covers below:

  • Increased risk of rust: When you cover your entire unit, it can trap moisture in the system by creating a high-humidity environment that may cause rust and corrosion. Since your electrical wiring, wiring connections, and, in some cases, circuit boards don’t do well with moisture, a high-humidity environment can be a serious problem. This increased risk of rust and damage to internal components is a serious drawback to AC covers.
  • Mold risk: Your air conditioner is made to be open to the air. Covering your air conditioner will block proper airflow, which can lead to mold growth on your evaporator coils. This mold can block proper airflow through your coils and decrease your air conditioner’s efficiency.
  • Critter invasion: Rodents and other animals seek shelter from harsh winters and will often start to inhabit a covered air conditioner. A rodent infestation can lead to multiple problems, such as chewed electrical wires and uninsulated Freon lines due to the rodents stripping them to make a nest. Even worse, you could have a whole litter of mouse pups in your air conditioning unit when you’re ready to use it in the spring.
  • Manufacturer recommendation: Most manufacturers do not recommend covering your AC unit. Air conditioners that operate year-round are built to withstand an outdoor environment and don’t require coverage.

Pros of Covering Outdoor AC Unit for Winter

While air conditioner covers have many disadvantages, they still offer some potential benefits. As you decide if you should cover your AC in the winter, review the primary advantages of AC covers for winter below:

  • Cleaner coils: AC covers keep your air conditioner coils a little cleaner by preventing dirt and debris from entering your unit. This coverage means your AC may run a little more efficiently when you use it again. 
  • Deterring debris: A cover will prevent debris like leaves, sticks, and other yard waste from blowing into your AC unit.
  • Preventing freezing: Covers help prevent water from directly resting on your coils and freezing, which could be damaging.

How to Decide Whether You Should Cover Your AC in the Winter

So, should you cover your ac unit in the winter? Based on the potential disadvantages and the mildness of Sacrmaneto winters, we don’t normally recommend it. However, you may decide the potential cons are worth it if your AC unit tends to get lots of debris on it over the winter or if you notice water constantly freezing on the coils. 

Which Kind of Cover Is Best for Outdoor HVAC Units?

If you insist on covering your outdoor unit despite the disadvantages, various options and covers are available. An AC cover for winter you might try is a mesh air-conditioner cover that doesn’t block airflow. You could also use a product called A Kool Kap air conditioner lid, which is designed to keep out leaves, dirt, and debris.

If you’d rather not purchase an AC cover for winter, you might also want to try a piece of plywood. Although it may look a bit janky, keeping a piece of plywood over your unit while it’s off can be a good compromise. For example, plywood is inexpensive, will keep out most debris, and leaves the sides open to keep moisture and small creatures out.

Keep in mind that if you do cover your air conditioner, make sure you only cover the top to prevent leaves and debris from falling inside the unit.

What’s a Better Way to Protect Your AC During the Winter?

While we can debate the pros and cons of covering AC units for winter all day, there’s no debate about the overwhelming advantages of regular maintenance. As a result, the best way to maintain your AC unit over the winter is to have it regularly serviced by a certified premier HVAC technician from Bonney. We’ll thoroughly inspect all of your central air conditioning systems and provide any needed maintenance to keep your HVAC system in the best shape possible. During fall and winter, we’ll even clean out the leaves and debris that accumulate in your outdoor unit. 

HVAC Service in Sacramento and Concord

If you’re looking for HVAC service near you in Sacramento or Concord, Bonney has you covered. Alongside offering one-off AC tune-ups, we’re proud to offer Bonney Beyond—a full-service benefits program. When you sign up for Bonney Beyond, you’ll receive regular maintenance on all your home comfort systems, priority scheduling, and reduced costs for service. Our professionals can also help you prepare for winter with furnace tune-ups, furnace repairs, and new heater installation. Additionally, we offer coupons and financing options to ensure our services can fit into all of our clients’ budgets.

Learn more about our AC tune-ups today. If you need AC maintenance or have any questions, please contact us to schedule an appointment.