We are often asked whether to cover air conditioning units in winter. The answer is definitely yes—covering the unit is part of good A/C winter care. Covers keep out dirt, insects, leaves and debris that otherwise invade, accumulate and leave deposits inside the unit and on coils. Without a cover, wind and rain drive contaminants further inside–into and between coils, posing a real hindrance to efficient cooling. A cover will also protect the exposed cabinet and extend not only its life but also keep it looking better.
In the spring, if a routine maintenance visit is scheduled (we strongly encourage annual maintenance on all AC units), we will vacuum dust from the coils and remove leaves, twigs, cobwebs, etc. But if your unit has excessive deposits or build-up on the coils, more costly chemical coil cleaning may be required. You can avoid help to forestall this potential added service cost by keeping the A/C unit safely covered in the winter.
The winter cover is a common sense way to help increase your A/C unit’s functional life, but it must be done intelligently. In the spring, before the cooling season starts, you MUST remove the cover before you start your unit. VERY IMPORTANT- A surprisingly common mistake, turning on the air conditioning with the outside cover still in place can cause irreparable damage to the unit.
It will have months since you covered the unit, so it is easy to forget that you have covered the outside unit. We advise homeowners or renters to shut off the safety disconnect as part of A/C winter care. Alternately, you can shut off the breaker to the outside unit at the electrical breaker panel inside the house. Your professional service technician can help you locate either of these components if you are unsure what to do. Either of these actions will ensure that someone will go outdoors or to the breaker panel before turning the unit on again, and therefore be reminded to remove the cover.
Another very important point – when you purchase a cover be sure to choose sized to your unit and one made of canvas or other breathable material. Breathable materials like canvas keep rain and snow out, and allow air drying when the weather clears. Plastic covers, unfortunately still available for sale at many retailers, can cause condensation to form and allow humidity to build up, causing corrosion to sensitive and EXPENSIVE components inside the unit! A plastic cover is worse than no cover at all! Some plastic covers available direct from the manufacturer have ventilation built into their design and function equally well to the covers constructed of breathable materials. This is not a feature we often see in generic covers sold at retail outlets however- so again, our recommendation is to avoid these as an option.
If you need assistance choosing a breathable canvas cover for your A/C unit, finding the fuse box, or have other questions, let us know. We’ll be glad to help you with proper A/C unit winter care.
P.K. Wadsworth services the Greater Cleveland, OH area including cities Chagrin Falls, Shaker Heights, Eastlake or anywhere in between. To get started, check out our website.