Summer is coming to an end, autumn is approaching and winter is looming in the distance. As a homeowner, you begin to look at how to prepare for the change in seasons. You check your doors and windows, and shut down and empty your sprinkler lines. You clean the gutters in preparation for falling leaves and seeds. Your furnace gets a new filter, and the thermostat a new battery. You wrap exposed outdoor water lines. Everything is looking good. Then you turn to your outside air conditioner. It seems so vulnerable, out in the elements, so you decide maybe you should cover it. Or should you?
Designed for the Job
An external air conditioner unit is factory designed to be an outdoor, all-weather device. While it is in operation, it’s important that nothing covers it or impedes airflow around it. The transfer of heat from inside the home to the outside requires this unit to radiate energy into the atmosphere, and blocking any passages can cause serious complications. After summer is over and the unit is shut down, there are some special circumstances to consider.
During the off-season, any dirt or dust that gathers in an air conditioner unit will simply wash away with the rains and snow. Keeping the unit open to the weather actually helps eliminate problems, and elements of the weather help keep the unit clean.
The air conditioner is designed to operate in all weather conditions, including heavy rain. The internal workings are already protected against water, and as the rain comes in it has a designated path to drain back out the bottom, keeping from gathering moisture inside. No additional cover or protection is necessary, even in winter conditions.
The sides of an air conditioner unit are almost entirely covered with ventilation slots, which could conceivably allow small rodents to move in. However, since there is no real protection anywhere inside for them to hide, the open design actually keeps them from settling in. Adding a cover over the unit would give them a better shelter, and encourage rather than repel them.
Leaves and Seeds
One serious characteristic of the fall season is the gathering of leaves and seeds. Since the unit’s ventilation slots are also located on the top, some of the debris from trees can make it inside and form masses of moisture, which can corrode the mechanisms. To help keep autumn foliage out, a top can be placed on the unit, covering just a few inches down the sides. This is sufficient to protect the unit without introducing any of the other potential problems.
The Bottom Line
As you can see, adding a full cover to an air conditioner can actually create more problems than it solves. A small bit of protection on the top to repel leaves and seeds can help but should be kept short and still allow full ventilation and water flow through it.
For additional information, or to schedule an appointment for inspecting or servicing your unit, contact Walker Air • Plumbing • Electric today.