Should You Cover Your Outside Central Air Conditioning Unit?

When I had window air conditioners in my home, every fall I dutifully covered the back of each unit. The plastic covers served 2 purposes- they protected the parts of each unit that were exposed to the weather. They also kept the chill of winter outside, and out of my house. When I replaced my window air conditioners with a central unit, I planned to care for the box that’s located outside in the weather just as well. But, the installer disagreed. Read this informative article and find out the answer to, “Should you cover your outside central air conditioning unit?”

The Weather in Northern Ohio
Living in northern Ohio is always an adventure when it comes to the weather. We usually run the whole gamut of temperatures and weather conditions in any given year. Sometimes, we’ll experience all 4 seasons in the same day! With all this sun, rain, snow, sleet, hail, wind, searing heat and bitter cold temperatures going on, it’s imperative that anything that has to be left outside be adequately protected. But, when it comes to an outside air conditioning unit, the story may be different.

The Pros of Covering Your Outside Central Air Conditioning Unit
Covering your central air conditioning unit protects the painted cabinet from the weather. It also keeps the rain, snow, ice, and other precipitation from getting inside the top and side vents. More importantly, covering it up during the off seasons keeps leaves, small tree branches and other debris out of the working components.

The Cons of Covering Your Outside Central Air Conditioning Unit
According to the contractor who installed my unit, the biggest con about using a cover is condensation. He says, if you cover the entire cabinet from top to bottom, moisture can easily become trapped between the cabinet and the cover. It can also get trapped inside the central air conditioning unit. The result? The moisture will lead to rust that will corrode and damage the unit. The trapped moisture can also cause mold and mildew to form. Using a full cover on your central air conditioning unit can also provide a place for insects and vermin to nest and live.

One Contractor’s Opinion
Instead of completely covering an outside air conditioning unit, my contractor recommends placing a piece of wood across the top to cover the vents. To keep the wind from removing it, you can anchor it down with a brick or a heavy rock.

He says, if you absolutely feel the need to cover your unit, never use a piece of plastic, a plastic garbage bag, or a plastic tarp. Instead, buy a cover that’s made from a “breathable” material. And then, only cover the top. Leave the sides open so the air can properly circulate around the unit.

The answer to the question, “Should you cover your outside central air conditioning unit?” can be rather confusing. There are several manufacturers who make covers for these units to protect them from the weather and keep them clean. These covers are made from materials like polyurethane and vinyl. Some are even lined to help further protect the unit. But, according to the contractor who installed my central air conditioning unit, a man who has been in the business for 40 years, these covers aren’t for me.

When I checked the owner’s manual, there was no mention of covering the unit. It only talked about periodically shutting off the electricity to the central air conditioning unit, removing the top, and removing any dirt or debris that may be inside.

So, my advice is, talk to your contractor and consult the owner’s manual that came with your outside air conditioning unit. And, decide for yourself whether to cover it during the off seasons or not.

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