Is it Necessary to Cover Your Air Conditioner for the Winter?
Covering your air conditioner, during the winter, is recommended by energy experts to protect the unit. While the outside components of an air conditioning system are designed to withstand the elements and function well in high temperatures, the unit is idle during the winter, and there is no need to leave it exposed. Covers can be used on window and wall units, as well as on the outside compressor unit for central air conditioning systems.
The primary benefit of covering your air conditioner, during the winter, is to minimize damage from snow, ice and wind. Covering the unit also prevents loose leaves, branches, grass and other debris from getting into it. Covering or removing a window unit can also reduce cold air drafts into the room. If plants grow near the exposed side of an air conditioner, trim back branches that are near the unit to prevent potential damage.
Regular maintenance and covering your air conditioner in the winter can save you money. Dirty coils and filters reduce the efficiency of the unit, which can lead to higher energy costs. Exposure to the winter weather not only increases wear and tear on the unit, but also leaves it vulnerable to damage from debris and ice. This can reduce the life of your air conditioner and may require you to replace it more frequently.
To best protect your air conditioner, use the cover that was provided when you purchased the unit. If the original cover was lost or has worn out, purchase a new one that is designed for your specific model from the company that sold you the air conditioner. A cover that is made for your model fits better than one that must be modified. Do not use garbage bags or sheets of plastic to cover the unit as these can cause condensation problems. A properly fitting cover allows just the right amount of airflow to prevent condensation.
In addition to covering your air conditioning unit in the winter, you can increase its efficiency by cleaning the filters at least monthly when the unit is running. If the filters are worn, you should replace them. Schedule an annual maintenance visit with a professional who can check the coils, filters, Freon, ducts, controls and other components. Perform an outdoor inspection of the area around the unit. Plants should be kept at least 2 feet away from the unit, and branches should not touch it. When mowing grass, do not mow around the unit while it is running, and direct grass clippings away from the air conditioner.
- U.S. Department of Energy: Maintaining Your Air Conditioner
- University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources: "Energy Actions for Renters to Save Dollars and Increase Comfort"; Shirley Niemeyer et al.; May 2009 (PDF)
- University of Illinois Extension Disaster Resources: Buying Air Conditioners
- A/C Covers Inc.: But I've Heard That You're Not Supposed To Cover Your Air Conditioner?
- A/C Covers Inc.: How Does Your A/C Cover Prevent Condensation Build-up?