Should I cover my AC Unit?

Your AC unit is probably the most expensive appliance you own for your home. So, it makes sense that should want to protect this investment.

If you Google the question, “Should I cover my AC Unit,” you will see that there are many answers, most of which seem to conflict each other. Why? Doesn’t it seem like a simple answer – Yes or No.

However, it is not as black and white, clear-cut as that. It depends greatly on factors such as quality, value, appearance and the most crucial factor – will by ac unit cover increase or decrease the life of the most expensive house appliance.

In this article, I am focusing on winter air conditioner covers not summer air conditioner covers. Winter ac covers are meant to be used on ac units that are NOT in use.

Quality: What type of material is the cover made from? How was in constructed (stitching strength and fit)? Will it blow off in a storm? Can it hold up to wind/sleet/snow/leaves/pine needles/(insert the name of weather challenges in your part of the country)? Will the sun discolor the material? Does the cover need to be held down with an additional facet?

Air conditioner covers are sold in all materials from fabric to plastic to vinyl. The more expensive brands are made from fabric and vinyl. The little extra expense often means that it will also last longer, have UV protection and have stitching that will hold tight.

Reliability: Many air conditioner covers must be secured with bungy cords so that the homeowner doesn’t have to worry about it blowing off in high winds or a storm. Let’s me honest with each other, this looks cheap. Why spend money on a cover that you have to add this not-so-pretty accessory and incur the expense of bungy cords. Also, if you use a bungy cord with metal ends, it can scratch the unit and cause accelerated rusting since the raw metal is now being exposed to the elements of nature. If your ac cover is for a second home that doesn’t get a lot of use in the winter, then the reliably of your cover being secured is a BIG factor.

Value: Does it come with a warranty? How many years of life will I get out of it before having to purchase another cover? A cover should have at least a two-year warranty. This will give you confidence that your ac cover will last a few seasons. However, a high-quality cover will most likely last for 10 or more years.

Appearance: Does it look like a glorified tarp? Does it add to the ascetics of my home or look like an eye-sore? If you put any money into landscaping and making your home look beautiful, then your outdoor accessories should match. There are covers that come in a variety of colors from blue to beige to green. Think – do I want my air conditioning cover to match the siding on my home OR do I want my air conditioning cover to match my landscape?

Extend or Decease the Life of my Air Conditioner? Two, and only two, major factors should hold the greatest weight when considering all features. These are the two factors to AVOID – moisture and nesting critters.

Moisture: Moisture (water) can freeze the air conditioner’s condenser coils, which can cause damage over time. Also, excessive moisture creates accelerated rusting of the coils and other components inside your ac unit. Most of the AC technicians who do not recommend covers state their concern for moisture building (condensation) as the main reason for not covering an ac unit.

However, choosing an ac cover that allow for the proper amount of air flow to move through the unit instead of building up inside the unit is eliminates this concern. A cover that is just a few inches shorter than the ac unit is most ideal.

The majority of the generic, one-size-fits all covers cover your entire air conditioner unit and therefore allows for this moisture build-up. It seems that covering your entire ac unit would be the best, but in fact, it is the worse thing you can do.

Nesting Ground Critters: It is more likely that a small animal (mice and other critters) will nest in a ac unit that has a cover touching the ground. These small animals tend to chew on wires, which also decreases the life of your unit.

Saving Money: Going back to my original point, your outdoor air conditioner is generally the most expensive appliance of your home. A quality cover, which allows for proper air flow, decreases the change of nesting animals, improves the appearance of your landscape and will be long lasting is worth a few extra dollars when choosing your ac cover. This is one of the products that is worth the extra expense now so that you get quality and don’t have to make a repeat purchase next year.