With winter’s fast arrival, maybe you’ve forgotten all about your AC in favor of furnace repair, and that’s got you frantically searching online for air conditioner winter protection. But hold on—protecting your AC with an air conditioner cover can be tricky business
Lots of HVAC specialists have strong opinions on whether or not they’re the best course of action in the winter. The answer? There are pros and cons to winterizing your air conditioner with a cover. AC maintenance is a necessity for peace of mind, and this can be an easy way to keep your outdoor unit running smoothly. Check out our list below to decide what’s right for you!
Pros to Air Conditioner Winter Covers
There are several reasons to get an air conditioner cover. Damaging the internal fins and coils of your AC unit isn’t exactly easy, but the great outdoors tends to find a way. With a protective cover, your outdoor air conditioner will have an extra line of defense against the following threats:
Leaves & Dust
Falling leaves and dust can wedge themselves into your air conditioner and force it to work much harder than necessary. As autumn comes to an end, a cover on your air conditioner might save you the hassle of cleaning those crumbled leaves out of your coils in the spring. In a worst-case scenario, it might also save you from having to disassemble your unit completely to get out wet leaves in the blades.
A little bit of snow on your air conditioning unit isn’t a big deal. But here in the Midwest, snow often comes in more than “a little bit.” If there’s inclement weather approaching, you might not be able to count on the wind to keep snow off your air conditioner. Massive piles of snow and ice stacked on your outside unit can end up being a problem. The fins are bent easily, and the densely packed ice and snow could damage them.
The time of summer storms is in the past, but the one constant for Midwestern weather is that it’s unpredictable. Before we approach blizzard season, there may still be opportunity for hard chunks of ice to fall from the sky and damage your roof, car, and your air conditioner.
If your air conditioning unit is outside and unshielded from the elements, hail could possible bend and damage the inside of the unit. An air conditioner cover can save you from that possibility, if it’s in a location where it might be particularly susceptible to hail damage.
Depending on where your air conditioner is located, falling ice may or may not be an issue. It’s almost the opposite of the hail problem—if your air conditioner is under a tree, deck, railing, or the edge of your roof, it could be in danger of ice falling from those heights. Icicles could fall and land on your outside AC unit, causing internal damage to the machine.
Dripping Water (Ice)
Dripping water is a possible issue for your air conditioner in the transitional stages of the seasons. Late autumn and early spring are the times to watch out for icicles or piles of snow above your AC unit.
When the temperature gets warmer, they may melt and drip water into your air conditioner. That on its own isn’t dangerous, but if there’s a sudden cold front immediately afterward, you might be dealing with an air conditioner that’s frozen from the inside, requiring professional repair. That can’t happen if you’re using an air conditioner cover.
Cons to Air Conditioner Winter Covers
On the other hand, some HVAC specialists are adamant that no homeowner really needs an air conditioner cover in the winter. Here are some reasons you might decide that shelling out the cash for a vinyl cover just isn’t worth it:
Pests and Animals
We already mentioned that without a cover, you may be inviting unwanted dust, leaves, or snow into your outdoor unit. Unfortunately, using a protective cover may be opening your doors to a different kind of guest.
Pests and animals like bugs and rodents will be looking for somewhere to escape the elements as it gets colder, and an AC cover gives them exactly that. What’s worse is that it will probably take months for most homeowners to check on their air conditioner again, giving pests ample time to make themselves at home—which could include chewing through essential parts of the machine.
Outdoor air conditioning units are built to last. They’re intended to stay outside in sometimes-harsh environments. If a big metal box doesn’t have the endurance for the winter, why would a thin protective sheet do much to help? That’s the reasoning for some HVAC specialists, who argue that AC units are sturdy enough to deal with winter hazards alone.
Usually Already Protected
Although air conditioners that are completely exposed to winter hazards might be good candidates for protective covers, most are already covered. Roofs, decks, and other manmade structures are especially good insurance against precipitation that could damage your AC unit. Even though there’s the risk that overhangs could result in sharp icicles breaking, they also prevent situations like large piles of snow on your air conditioner.
Trap Moisture & Mold
It’s not particularly likely that moisture from falling snow will stay inside your outdoor air conditioner. If there’s a cover on it, however, that changes. Moisture will always find a way to get inside a warm cover, and most varieties of protective winter covers don’t allow for it to evaporate.
This causes moisture and mold to accumulate under your cover, which can then create a range of issues, such as decreasing your air quality or simply being gross when it’s time to take the cover off.
At the end of the day, getting a protective cover for your air conditioner means spending money. Covers can range anywhere from $20 to $100, depending on the material and design you choose. That’s not enough to break the bank, but it might be enough to change your mind if you can’t choose between courses of action.
In the end, choosing to cover your air conditioner for the winter is up to you. However, you can DIY an air conditioner cover for winter by placing plywood over your outdoor unit and securing it with bungee cords. If it’s currently exposed, you’ll keep out falling projectiles, as well as prevent critters from using it as a place to hibernate.
What about Window Air Conditioners in Winter?
If you want to know if you should be protecting a window air conditioner, the answer is much simpler: yes. Either remove your air conditioner from the window (ask a buddy for help) or insulate around it with foam. There are insulated window air conditioner covers for winter, but they may be unwieldy.
Air Conditioner Winter Protection
The temperatures are dropping, and there are lots of things to do to prepare! Winterize your air conditioner as you see fit, and make sure to give us a call if you need a little help from the professionals. We can always travel out to your home and give you our expert opinions on whether you could benefit from a protective cover, as well as additional winter tips and tricks.