Temperatures are dropping, leaving balmy summer days just a memory. As our thoughts turn to snow, you may be wondering if you should cover your air conditioner compressor to protect it this winter. The surprising answer is: you probably don’t need to.

Why You Should

In Pennsylvania, fall is actually more hazardous to your outdoor A/C unit than winter. That’s because air conditioners are built to withstand typical outdoor conditions, even during the winter, including ice and snow. What they’re not built to withstand is leaves, nuts, needles, and other debris falling or blowing into the compressor and clogging up its inner workings. If you have trees anywhere near your unit, you should consider covering your unit in the fall, not the winter.

Once winter arrives, icicles pose the greatest danger. While your unit can withstand normal amounts of snow, shards of ice falling at high velocity can do damage. If icicles form above your unit, it’s best to remove them yourself before they fall on their own. If you aren’t able to, a good A/C cover is recommended.

Why You Shouldn’t

The wrong cover can do more damage to your air conditioner than no cover at all. That’s because if moisture gets trapped under the cover mold can grow and the compressor may rust. When you turn on the system next summer, it may blow contaminated air into your house. A fully covered unit is also an inviting home for rodents and other critters, who can nest inside, leaving behind debris and possibly chewing on things they shouldn’t.

If your unit isn’t in a danger zone from leaves or ice, it’s perfectly fine to leave it uncovered. Remember, it’s been built to withstand typical weather conditions, and Pennsylvania winters are rarely severe.

Not All Air Conditioner Covers Are Created Equal

If you’d like to cover your A/C unit, don’t just throw a tarp over it. The cover should be breathable, and preferably cover only the top of the unit. If the cover does have sides, it should leave at least 6 inches uncovered at the bottom for ventilation. You can purchase covers made especially for this purpose that won’t trap moisture inside. Or you can put a piece of plywood over your unit and weigh it down with bricks. If icicles are a concern, using something hard to cover the top of the unit will provide the best protection.

Other Winter A/C Tips

If it does snow heavily, it’s best to clear off the top and sides of your unit while you’re doing the rest of your snow removal. A/C units are tough, but it’s best if they’re not buried under snow and ice for an extended period of time.

Once you’re done with your A/C for the season, consider disconnecting the power to keep the system from kicking on if there’s an unexpected warm spell. You should be able to find the electrical circuit and switch it off. This will prevent unnecessary electrical costs and possible damage to your system.

Start Your Summer Off Right

Whether you cover your air conditioner or not, Reliance Heating & Air Conditioning recommends that you have your unit serviced each spring before you’re ready to turn it back on. This will ensure your air conditioner is clean and undamaged after the fall and winter seasons. We make this easy for our customers in the Philadelphia area with maintenance plans that protect your equipment and your peace of mind.

Contact Reliance today for all your heating and air conditioning needs!