Winter has finally reached the Triad; are you ready? Hopefully, youâ€™ve already had Johns Plumbing, Heating, and Air Conditioning do our seasonal maintenance on your HVAC system. But now the question arises: should you cover your air conditioning unit for the winter?
This is a question that has been hotly debated for years, and thereâ€™s not exactly a simple answer. Read on to learn about the pros and cons of covering your air conditioner, and to decide on the best choice for you.
Reasons to Cover Your Air Conditioner
- It keeps falling snow and ice out of the unit.
- It keeps leaves and debris from clogging the unit.
- It keeps water off the coils, where it can freeze and damage them.
Reasons Not to Cover Your Air Conditioner
- Even with a cover, moisture from condensation can get into your air conditioning unit, causing damage. This is why seasonal maintenance is so important.
- The moisture from condensation can breed mold and mildew, which can also damage your system and degrade air quality.
- Covering your air conditioning unit can create a lovely haven for mice and other animals to make a winter nest.
Whatâ€™s the Bottom Line?
In the Triad, we donâ€™t often experience extended harsh winters. However, blizzards and hailstorms are the two weather events that warrant covering your air conditioning unit. If such a storm is in the forecast, cover your unit before the storm starts, and remove it afterwards. In the case of a blizzard (extremely rare in the southeast), take a few minutes to brush the snow from around the base of the unit.
An air conditionerâ€™s filters, coils, and fins require regular maintenance to work efficiently and properly. You have to maintain these few things in order to get the years of service that you need and deserve from the unit in which you have invested your money.Â Neglecting these few steps will cause a steady declineÂ in performanceâ€”costing you money. Also, your comfort level will decreaseÂ because your unit is struggling to reach peak performance potential to enable it to work efficiently and properly.
One of the most important things to check on your HVAC unit is your filter. Clogged and dirty air filters will block the flow of air through your unit causing a significant drop in your system’s performance. With the air flow being blocked by dirt and debris, the air that comes through the filter can carry the dust and debris directly to the evaporator coil causing a big drop in performance. Keeping your air conditioner filters clean can lower your unitâ€™s energy consumption by 5%-15%. For central air units, the filters are generally located somewhere along the air return ducts. They are sometimes found in walls, ceilings, furnaces, or in the air conditioner itself. Room air conditioners have the filter mounted on the front of the unit behind the front grill. Some types of filters are reusable; others have to be replaced. The more your unit runs, the more often you need to check the filters. Filters are rated by a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV). The higher the MERV number, the more effective the filter will be at keeping dirt out of your system.
Your air conditioner evaporator coil and condenser coil can collect dirt over years of usage. A clean filter will delay this accumulation, but in time, the coil will still collect dirtâ€”reducing the air flow and reducing its ability to absorb heat. To avoid this problem, you need to check the coil at least once a year. A good time of year to do this is in the spring when you do your spring cleanup from the winter that has just ended.
Outdoor condenser units need the same type of attention. You can easily check the coil to see if dirt is collecting on the fins. Check with your local home improvement store or HVAC expert to see if they have a cleaner available for these coils. The aluminum fins on evaporator and condensing coils can easily become bent and prevent air from moving through them. Air conditioner supply stores sell a tool called a â€œfin combâ€ that will move or â€œcombâ€ these fins closer to their original position.
These units also have a condensate drain that can become clogged. Clogged drains prevent the unit from reducing humidity, therefore, sending more moisture into your home. You can occasionally send a stiff wire through the unit’s drain channels to prevent them from clogging.
These are just a few things that you can do to help bring your HVAC unit closer to peak performance to help you save moneyÂ and conserve energy at the same time.