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air conditioning unitIn the summertime, you likely made good use of your AC unit. After all, air conditioners account for 5% of all electricity used in the United States. But now that fall has arrived, you may be wondering what preparations you need to take to safeguard your air conditioning unit throughout the colder months. The answer actually isn’t as straightforward as you might think, and there are two schools of thought when it comes to one topic in particular: whether or not you should cover your AC unit for the winter. Below, we’ll discuss each side of the argument, including the potential advantages and disadvantages of both options.

Why You SHOULD Cover Your Air Conditioning Unit In Winter
The idea of covering your unit does make some sense. Under ideal circumstances, it would keep dirt, leaves, and other debris out of your air conditioner and protect it from harsh winter elements like snow and ice. These materials can get into the condenser and cause damage, prompting a necessary phone call to your local AC repair service come spring.

If you live in an area that’s prone to harsh weather or have a backyard filled with trees, it may be to your benefit to cover up the unit for at least the fall, if not the entire winter season. If you do decide to cover your air conditioner, make sure you refrain from using a plastic cover and/or one that envelops the entire unit.

Why You SHOULDN’T Cover Your Air Conditioning Unit In Winter
Although it might seem like covering your AC unit is the best way to go, it may actually do more harm than good. Air conditioner covers can actually encourage rodents and other pests to make your unit into their new home for the winter, as it will protect them from the elements too. And because a cover traps in moisture, you may end up dealing with mildew and mold (which can easily find its way into your home).

The other thing to keep in mind is that outdoor AC units are actually made to withstand the elements. The unit’s compressor is likely at least somewhat protected from the elements, as it’s often directly located underneath your home’s roof. And because the unit won’t be operating during the winter, it won’t suck in dirt or debris. The materials used to build your unit are resistant to water and other natural elements, meaning that there typically isn’t a need to cover them up. Premature damage from winter weather would usually indicate that your unit is of lower quality and would likely need to be replaced anyway.

Ultimately, the choice of whether or not to cover your unit is up to you. A shorter cover can help reduce the effects of heavy pile-ups of snow, which can be helpful in areas prone to winter storms. But most homeowners will likely be better off just leaving their unit be. Instead, schedule regular unit inspections to ensure your unit stays in tip-top shape. And if you’re ever in doubt, contact your HVAC technician to see what they would recommend.