Should I Cover My Outdoor Unit During Colder Months?

December 17, 2020

During the wintertime, you’ll turn to your heat pump, furnace or another heating system to keep your Beaumont, TX, home warm. The outdoor unit of your air conditioning system won’t be in use during these months of the year, so you might wonder if you need to cover it during the wintertime. Here are some useful tips to help you decide whether or not to cover the outdoor unit during the colder months of the year.

Outdoor Units Are Designed for Extreme Weather

There’s no need to cover the outdoor unit of your heating or cooling system. The outdoor unit of a central air conditioning system or heat pump is designed to withstand all types of extreme weather. Their stainless or powder-coated steel housing can withstand precipitation, wind, direct sunlight and high humidity. They can handle a wide range of temperatures, from sub-zero temperatures and frigid windchill in the wintertime to extreme heat in the summertime. The outdoor unit’s housing protects the interior coils, fan and motor from all types of extreme weather. Review the manufacturer’s maintenance and care recommendations. If the manufacturer advises against a cover and you use one anyway, you could void the system’s warranty.

Specific Situations When a Cover Can Help

There are a few specific situations in which using a cover could offer some additional protection for your heating or air conditioning system’s outdoor unit. Before you put a cover on the outdoor unit for one of these situations, turn off its power. Operating the system with a cover on the outdoor unit could cause major system damage. If you have a maple or oak tree next to the outdoor unit, its seeds, acorns, twigs and leaves can clog the inner housing of the system. This could cause damage. The autumn is the best time of the year to temporarily use a cover on the outdoor unit. The cover would block debris from falling into the heating or cooling system’s housing. If Beaumont is under a dust advisory, putting a cover on the outdoor unit reduces debris intrusion. As soon as the leaves are done falling, take the cover off the unit. After autumn, remove the cover and leave the unit uncovered for the rest of the winter.

The Cover Material Matters

Avoid using a plastic cover on the outdoor unit. Plastic traps moisture, which can hasten rust and corrosion of the heating or cooling system’s essential parts. Don’t use any material that restricts airflow. This includes polypropylene tarps, plastic sheeting or contractor-size garbage bags. A fabric cover is a better choice. There’s enough room between the fibers of a fabric cover to allow sufficient airflow. Burlap and other outdoor fabrics are acceptable material options.

What Parts of the Outdoor Unit Can Be Covered

Only the top part of the outdoor unit should be covered. The cover should not extend more than six inches down the sides of the unit. If you cover the entire outdoor unit, moisture will be trapped around it. Birds, rodents, insects and snakes may find the cover to be a good place to spend a cozy winter. If these critters spend the winter on your outdoor heating or air conditioning unit, their droppings and nesting material could cause significant damage.

Do Not Cover Outdoor Units of Heat Pump Systems

If you have a heat pump, don’t put a cover on the outdoor unit at any time. The outdoor unit of the heat pump is used year-round. If you put a cover on it during the colder months, it won’t be able to absorb heat from the outdoor air. This will impede its ability to heat your home. The outdoor coil could freeze, which is a costly repair. If you put a cover on the outdoor unit of the heat pump, the heat could facilitate biological growth, which could contribute to poor indoor air quality and shorten the system’s lifespan. Moisture could also freeze on the cover, creating icicles that fall into the unit and damage its fan.

Reed Service Company is the trusted provider of heating and air conditioning maintenance. You can also turn to us for reliable heating and cooling repairs, replacements and installations. Our HVAC design, indoor air quality solutions and geothermal systems are designed with energy efficiency, comfort and health in mind. To learn more about whether or not you should cover the outdoor unit during the winter months of the year, get in touch with us at Reed Service Company.