Should you cover your A/C in the winter?
We still have some summer left, but soon it will be time to prepare, winter is coming...
I've often been asked, "Can you get me a cover for my A/C to protect it during winter?".
When you completely cover your air conditioner you are asking for trouble. This is because a traditional cover that snuggly fits around your A/C from top to bottom, almost always leads to problems. The most common is completely forgetting to remove the cover and turning the A/C on. This can and will destroy the unit if left for too long, or at the very least cause serious damage. Also, by creating such a tight fit, you are trapping moisture, which will slowly eat away at the metal parts, including the motor and the compressor.
Now with that said, a mistake that a lot of people make, is choosing to not cover it at all. I've read quite a few times, claims that winter won't affect the unit, and while most of this is true, one element that many seem to forget is the fan blades, just inside the top of the unit. Those blades are sitting horizontally, already fighting gravity. When snow is allowed to fall through the top of the A/C unit, and accumulate on the top of the fan blades, it can add up to enough weight to change the angle of the blades. While this won't destroy the unit, it will certainly lead to lower efficiency over time, because the fan blades won't be able to expel the same air as they once did.
So what's the answer?
The answer is simple, only cover the top of the unit. You can trim the traditional cover to only fit on top, or a piece of plywood and a few bricks always work as well. The idea here is that we want the sides of the air conditioner to be open, so that air can freely move through. And that's it! You've winterized your A/C.
It's still just as important to remove that top cover at the beginning of spring/summer though, or have your local HVAC tech routinely check your units before each season to ensure optimal performance, and preventing any possible issues from getting worse!