We cover many of our outdoor features once the warm weather subsides, from the patio furniture to the pool—but what about the air conditioner? When it comes to the heating and cooling unit in your Sterling, VA home, there are several coverage options. Read on to learn when, why and how you should go about covering your outdoor HVAC unit after summer. 

Need heating and air conditioning repair in Sterling? Give the team at Cardinal Plumbing, Heating and Air a call at (703) 645-4527 or visit us online to schedule same day service. 

Why Should I Cover My Air Conditioner?

The condenser unit—your A/C system’s outdoor unit—is designed and built to withstand the elements. That’s why it’s typically fine during summer storms and rainy weather. The trouble lies with debris like twigs, leaves and nuts. When these kinds of foliage get into your unit, moisture can collect in and around them, causing corrosion, mold growth or airflow and drainage blockages. In severe cases, a clogged condenser unit won’t be able to release the warm air removed from your home to the outdoors. This can greatly decrease its efficiency and drive up utility costs, not to mention causing breakdowns over time.   

While it’s not always necessary to cover an outdoor condenser unit, doing so can help reduce maintenance requirements and extend a unit’s life. As trees shed their leaves in the fall, this is really the only time of the year homeowners need to worry about covering their outdoor units. Extra precautions can also be taken during heavy winter storms to prevent snow and ice from damaging your unit, though this depends on your location and climate.

How Should I Cover My Air Conditioner?

A good rule of thumb is to only cover the top of your outdoor air conditioner unit, with the sides of the cover only coming down roughly 6–8 inches. That’s because a full cover can trap moisture inside of your condenser, leading to corrosion and possible mold growth. Another consideration is that a fully covered unit offers shelter, which can invite small animals, like rodents, to take up residence in your condenser unit. If you do opt for full coverage, it’s important to select a light and breathable material, such as a mesh cover, to ensure that moisture can still escape.

If you need to protect your unit from heavy snow, hail and ice, try placing plywood on top of the unit with bricks or stones to help it stay put. This will shield your unit from taking on damage due to ice or heavy snowfall—just be sure to clear off accumulated snow and remove the plywood cover once the storm is over. Throughout the fall and winter, it’s wise to inspect your outdoor unit about once a week. Check that the cover remains in place and remove any accumulated snow, ice or debris. 

Do I Need to Cover a Window Unit?

Just like outdoor condenser units, the outer portion of your window unit is built to withstand rain and snow. There is, however, the danger of cold drafts making their way into your home through your window unit. Likewise, heated air can escape through a window A/C, which can drive up energy costs as your heater works harder to keep indoor temperatures comfortable. Indoor A/C covers are available to help seal potential air leaks. Decorative covers can help hide an unsightly unit when it’s not in use, and they remove the need to take the unit out and reinstall it when the weather heats up again.

Air Conditioner Maintenance 

Aside from covering an outdoor unit, there are several maintenance tasks homeowners can perform to ensure their unit is adequately protected. Let’s dive in:

  • Clear away debris like leaves, twigs, branches, seeds and nuts from the area surrounding your condenser unit.
  • Carefully remove any debris that gets caught between your outdoor unit’s metal fins.
  • Vacuum any remaining debris or dust from the outside of the unit with a soft brush attachment. 
  • Gently straighten any bent metal fins with a butterknife. 
  • If your unit is covered in dirt and grime, remove the top grill and hose down the metal fins from the inside out (just be sure to turn the unit completely off first).
  • Trim back nearby bushes or shrubbery, leaving at least a 2-ft clearance around your unit. 
  • Trim and prune tree branches directly above your unit, especially if you notice any dead branches. 
  • If you have a dog, create a barrier to prevent Fido from repeatedly urinating on your outdoor unit, as this can cause corrosion. 
  • Schedule a maintenance visit from an HVAC professional in the spring and fall seasons. 

If you aren’t handy or simply don’t have the time to winterize your unit, give our team a call. HVAC systems benefit greatly from annual tune-ups—one in the spring for an air conditioner, and one in the fall for a heating unit. A professional HVAC tune-up includes a top-to-bottom cleaning and inspection of your entire system. That means a qualified technician can repair or replace any worn and damaged parts before they cause problems or lead to further damage. A well-maintained unit will run more efficiently and be less prone to inconvenient breakdowns. Regular HVAC maintenance also ensures your unit will require less energy to operate and have a longer overall lifespan. 

Heating and Air Conditioning Repair in Sterling, VA

If you’re in need of heating and air conditioning installation, repairs or replacement in your Sterling, VA home, look no further than Cardinal Plumbing, Heating and Air. Our team is fully trained, licensed and insured to provide same day service with a 100% satisfaction guarantee. 

The pros at Cardinal specialize in heating, cooling and plumbing services. We’re proud to offer financing options and maintenance plans to help ensure all our customers have access to the services and equipment they need to stay safe and comfortable. Give us a call at (703) 645-4527 or contact us online to schedule a visit today.