Do you need air conditioner covers for winter?
When it comes to keeping your home comfortable through the hot summer months, your air conditioner is one of the most important built-in systems. The AC works hard to keep the temperature and humidity at reasonable levels so your home continues to be an enjoyable place year-round. It can even help with the air quality in your home.
If you live in areas with distinct seasons, however, you might overlook your AC unit during the fall and winter months — when it’s subsequently turned off and the heater is turned on. However, it’s important to think carefully about how you treat your HVAC system. Taking a little time to properly maintain the system during cooler weather can help your AC keep running when you need to turn it on again next year.
One common maintenance question is whether AC units need a cover for the months when they’re not in use. This article will explore what you need to know about AC covers and when you may or may not need one.
Why you don’t need to cover your AC unit in the winter
AC covers are actually not advisable during the winter. Your air-conditioning unit was designed and built to withstand a wide range of weather conditions, including snow and ice. It will continue to work just fine even if snow piles on top of it.
In fact, using a central air conditioner cover during the winter months can actually place your system at risk for damage. The cover can trap water and moisture near the different internal parts of the unit, creating an atmosphere that promotes mold and mildew growth. If water gets trapped by metal parts, you may also find the unit at risk of rust or corrosion. This is especially true for outside units.
Putting a cover on the AC unit during winter weather can make it look like a potential hideaway for small animals interested in building a burrow away from the cold air, winter winds and snow. Small animals can damage your unit, including chewing through wires or otherwise damaging components.
While a mesh air conditioner cover might help reduce the problem of trapped moisture, it might not provide a lot of value through the winter. Of course, there can be times during the year when using an AC cover might benefit you and your unit.
When should you cover your outdoor air conditioner?
AC unit covers can provide value for your unit throughout the fall. Although the system has components designed to continue to work even in the face of snow, wind and rain, they may not hold up as well against falling leaves, acorns and other debris that can easily get inside a unit throughout autumn.
Placing a cover on your air-conditioning unit can prevent this debris from getting embedded in your unit. A buildup of debris inside the air-conditioning unit will definitely hinder its ability to perform and can even cause damage to the different parts, leading to greater repair costs. However, when using a cover, make sure it fits and doesn’t cover the entire unit. Instead, focus on covering the top of the unit to prevent falling debris from getting in.
The importance of keeping your AC unit clean
Keeping your air-conditioning unit clean can provide a number of benefits, including:
- Cooling is more efficient. Since the system doesn’t have to battle against debris that can disrupt its airflow as it attempts to work, it will be able to cool off your home faster and keep the space more comfortable.
- Cooling is more cost-efficient. Since the unit can run more efficiently, it may cost less to cool your home, saving you money on your energy bill.
- The system may last longer. Keeping your air-conditioning unit clean will also help reduce wear and tear on the system. This can help you save on maintenance and repair costs.
While an AC cover is a good way to keep your unit clean by reducing the amount of debris that can get in during the fall, make sure to give your system a good cleaning about once or twice a year. Below, we cover what you need to know about keeping your unit clean.
How to clean your outdoor AC unit
Regularly keeping your air-conditioning unit clean can help you minimize repair costs and maximize the value you get from the system. Here are some steps you can take to clean your outdoor AC unit.
Shut off power to the AC unit
Your air conditioner has a variety of components that have to move successfully for the system to work. This means many components use electricity and can be potentially dangerous when opening up parts of the unit to give it a proper cleaning. Make sure you have fully turned off the AC unit before moving any further in the process.
You can shut off the power either by unplugging it or by turning off its power source through your circuit breaker.
Remove the AC unit panels
Next, remove your air-conditioning unit’s panels. This will allow you to get into the unit to clean it out thoroughly. However, you need to be very careful as you navigate through this step. Specifically, make sure you don’t damage your condenser fans as you remove the panels.
Secondly, make sure to keep your screws and panels straight. Have a container to place your screws in and follow a firm order when you remove the panels. This will help you remember which panel goes where. You also won’t have to worry about having a screw disappear somewhere in the grass.
Clean the exterior fins
Next, you’ll want to gently clean the fins of your air conditioner. The exterior fins can be cleaned using an air conditioner fin comb, which will have gentle, small bristles that can clean out any buildup along the fins.
You may find that you get the best clean if you focus on brushing up and down rather than side to side. If you need to use your water hose to rinse away some debris, you can do that as well. Remember, your unit was built to be water-resistant so that it can be out in the rain. However, to protect your unit, use a gentle spray starting from the top, allowing it to run down the fins. This works better than spraying directly on the fins.
Remove any leaves and debris
Also, make sure to remove any leaves or other debris from the unit. As previously discussed, the buildup of this type of debris can make it harder for the system to operate efficiently. Regularly checking for leaves and other types of dirt can protect your system and give you the best possible cooling experience. Gently pull out any debris you see and give the unit a careful inspection to make sure you haven’t missed anything.
Now that your unit is cleaned, carefully replace the panels in their proper locations. As we suggested before, you should have your panels removed in a careful order so each panel goes back in its proper place. Use your screwdriver to reinstall the panels.
Once you’ve finished putting the panels back in place and are sure that everything is ready, you can restore power to your air conditioner. It might be helpful to turn it on briefly to make sure it runs smoothly.
Prevent costly AC repair bills with Cinch
When it comes to protecting your built-in systems, taking care to stay on top of regular maintenance can go a long way in helping you maximize the life span of your investments. However, in addition to keeping components clean, make sure you have a partner who’s ready to step in and help you with any heavy-duty maintenance tasks, repairs or replacements. Sometimes your air conditioner’s needs may go beyond your DIY home-improvement capabilities.
Cinch Home Services offers several home warranties, including a Built-in Systems plan, so you have the coverage you need at a price you can afford. When you have a Cinch plan, you can rest easy knowing that you can request service at any time and we’ll match your repair request with a vetted service technician from our network of more than 18,000 professionals. All of our plans also come with additional benefits, like a 180-day workmanship guarantee and protection for unknown pre-existing conditions.
See what a Cinch home warranty can do for you as a homeowner by requesting a free quote today.