Your HVAC system is a huge investment, and homeowners often debate whether to cover it or leave it exposed. Covering the HVAC has several advantages, especially if limited to the fall and early winter. However, it may also harm your system, especially left on throughout the winter. Your home’s location, the prevailing weather conditions, and the method you use to cover the system will determine how safe it is to cover your HVAC unit. The pros and cons below are worth considering.
Advantages of Covering HVAC Units in Winter
Sometimes, it’s beneficial to cover your HVAC unit. These benefits especially apply to times when it’s windy. You can use a specially-made cover placed over the system, an awning, or a mounted cover. You could also use pressure-treated wood. These materials protect the unit from elements while ensuring that it functions optimally.
Protection From the Elements
Most modern HVAC systems feature a design that can withstand weather elements, including snow and ice. As such, most systems do not need covering. These units feature a coating that protects the condenser.
Still, moisture can seep into sensitive parts of the HVAC system, leading to corrosion or electrical issues. A cover can help minimize moisture exposure, safeguarding the unit against potential damage caused by condensation or freezing.
When your AC runs, the outside unit has coil fins to help release the heat. These fins are made from soft aluminum. If your unit has no covering, hail can severely damage the fins. If damage is bad enough, it can keep the unit from operating.
Protection From Debris
Although the AC can survive snow and rainfall, debris can damage it in two ways. First, it can harm and hinder the internal components. Second, it can restrict airflow when you run the AC again.
Wind can force debris such as small twigs, leaves, and dirt into the unit when it’s blustery. Even the smallest bit can damage the components if it’s windy enough. Plus, when debris covers the coils, the system’s ability to cool your home in summer is compromised.
Debris allowed to accumulate around the unit also causes problems. This unit relies on sufficient airflow to keep your home comfortable in summer. When airflow is restricted, the system can’t operate as intended.
Installing a cover can stop debris from getting into the system. A hardwearing all-weather cover can also direct rainwater away.
Disadvantages of Covering a HVAC System
While covering the AC unit has some advantages, keeping it covered may do more harm than good, especially if the cover is not well-placed. Below are some cons of covering your HVAC unit.
Even when covered, moisture will accumulate under the cover, mainly from condensation. Winter weather can fluctuate between extremes. After a cold snap, the elements in the condenser will naturally be very cold. When the weather is warmer, condensation forms around the still-cold parts of the unit. If the cover does not allow moisture to escape, it accumulates and can cause rust and other problems.
If moisture builds up in your condenser, mold can grow. When mold or other grime coats the coils, it lowers their efficiency. As a result, your AC will struggle to release the heat when summer hits.
Nests for Rodents
A fully covered AC unit is warm and dark, making the perfect environment for rodents to nest. A covered unit is also inviting to insects. If a part of the cover gets loose, squirrels and rats will make the unit their home. Rodents are a danger to the condenser since they will chew the wiring and leave scratches on the metal parts.
Picking the Right Cover for Your HVAC
Protecting your HVAC is a good decision. However, you must ensure that moisture is allowed to escape. If the unit was placed under a patio, awning, or similar structure, that’s usually all the protection it needs. If you need a fabric AC cover, be sure to choose one that has a way to vent moisture. Here are some other considerations when choosing a cover.
Partial or Complete Cover
Some covers stretch to protect the entire unit, but that might reduce airflow and lead to a buildup of moisture. If you live in an area that does not snow or rain in winter, you can get a partial cover to keep off debris while allowing air circulation on the sides.
Cover Designed for the AC Unit
You need a cover designed for your air conditioner. Ensure the cover is not too big for the air conditioner as too much room attracts pests.
You can also shop for a cover made of light wood or lattice. The wood creates a shield around the AC unit that protects the unit from the elements. It can also improve the aesthetics of your yard as it can keep the unit hidden. If this cover is permanent, make sure it will not impede airflow in spring and summer.
A temporary cover allows you to protect the AC unit by sealing off gaps that may let in water and debris. These covers are light but strong, and some feature a fleece lining. You can dress them on the unit and remove them whenever needed. After winter, you can remove the covers and store them appropriately until the next cold season.
AC Maintenance at Winter’s End
Even if you decide to use an AC unit cover, you still need to maintain your AC when spring comes. Talk to an AC expert for inspection, maintenance, and repairs. We recommend scheduling a maintenance appointment for spring before you want to run the AC for the first time. Our technicians will clean the unit during the visit and remove any debris. They will check the condition of the wiring and wrap or replace damaged wiring. The technician will check for other internal issues, like low refrigerant or damaged components, and recommend repair or replacement of parts as needed. If not corrected before summer, these problems will worsen.
Throughout the warmer months, be sure to cut any tall grass near the unit and keep the area around it clear. You should also remove shrubs and tree branches hanging close to the unit, as heavy tree branches can damage the AC.
Consult the Experts
Wondering whether an HVAC cover is a good idea? Talk to us at A/C Doctors, and we will help you determine whether a cover is necessary. The technician can inspect your outdoor AC unit and advise whether you need a cover and what cover would be the best for your unit. We offer expert heating and cooling systems installation, repair, and maintenance. We also work with drains, sewers, water heaters, and other plumbing concerns.
Call A/C Doctors in Gilbert, AZ, today for answers to any HVAC questions you might have and to schedule comprehensive HVAC installation, repair, or maintenance services.