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Why an Outdoor AC Unit Cover is a Good Idea for Winter

Once the weather turns cool and you switch to using the furnace, you probably don’t give much thought to your outdoor air conditioning unit. However, this is the perfect time of year to do some preventative maintenance and take steps to ensure that your unit is protected throughout the winter months.

Adding a cover to your unit can help protect it from moisture, leaves, nuts, and other debris. However, an incorrectly installed cover can do more harm than good. Keep reading to learn more about why an outdoor AC unit cover is a good idea and get tips for the proper way to add a cover.

Most people assume that harsh winter weather and moisture are the biggest enemies of AC units, but that isn’t necessarily the case. Outdoor AC units are designed to prevent rain, snow, and dirt from entering. However, leaves, seeds and ice, and other natural materials that fall from trees can potentially find their way into the unit and cause impact damage. Adding a cover for winter will help protect the unit and block these items from entering. 

The Don’t’s of Adding an AC Cover

When adding a cover, more isn’t better. You don’t want to add a cover that completely encapsulates the unit. The cover should fit over the top and extend down the sides no more than six inches. Adding a larger cover will end up trapping moisture in the unit and lead to water damage, rust, and corrosion. Excess moisture can also cause the condenser coils to freeze, which will require repair and could cause lasting damage.

Trapping moisture in the unit can cause a mole, however, it is outside and does NOT get into the air stream. But mold is never a good thing even if it’s not making its way inside.

Ensuring that your cover is the right size and providing a tight fit will also help prevent rodents and other small animals from making themselves at home. During the winter, these animals look for any type of shelter where they can stay warm and out of the elements. By adding a poorly fitted cover, you may be unwittingly inviting animals to create a nest.

Homeowners are also often concerned about protecting their AC unit from dirt. Keep in mind that once the unit is off, it won’t be actively sucking in air, which is the main way dirt enters. When the unit isn’t operational during the winter months, you won’t have to worry about protecting it from dirt.


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Choosing the Right Cover for Your AC Unit

There are affordable AC unit covers on the market that you can purchase, but it is important to beware of some of these products. Despite the fact that AC units should not be completely covered, companies still make full covers. Stay away from these products and anything made of plastic because it does not breathe and will only trap moisture and cause damage. Read up on different products, be an informed consumer and look for covers that are made from breathable materials.

Another cheap and simple way to cover your AC unit is with a piece of plywood. This will protect it from snow, falling ice, and other debris while still allowing moisture to escape. You can use a few bricks to weigh down the wood and this DIY solution will offer all the protection your AC unit will need during the winter.

You can also install an awning or small shelter above the AC unit. This addition will also provide shade during the summer months. Even planting shrubs can add a layer of protection and help hide the unit for better curb appeal. If you go this route, be sure to leave enough distance between the unit and the shrubs for proper airflow.

As you prepare for the winter, keep in mind that your AC unit is designed to withstand harsh weather conditions and extreme temperatures. You don’t have to go overboard with adding an extensive cover. In fact, too much coverage will be counterproductive and end up causing problems. When it comes to adding an AC unit cover for winter, keep it simple. You really only need to cover the top of the unit.

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