Should Air Conditioning Units be Covered?
LESLIE: Winnie from California listens to The Money Pit on KVML and it seems like you have a decorative question regarding your outdoor air conditioning unit. How can we help?
WINNIE: Well, I wouldn’t say it’s decorative; it’s just functional. What I wanted to know was should I cover it? It’s a Carrier air conditioner/heater and it’s outside the house …
WINNIE: (inaudible) weather. And we get a lot of rain and, of course, we get some snow. And I’m wondering … it’s about a three foot square block.
WINNIE: And I’m concerned that if all that rain is coming in it eventually is going to ruin it. Should I cover it during the winter?
TOM: Ah, that’s a great question because you would think – and especially if you want to maintain your property – that something like an outdoor appliance like that you would want to wrap that thing up with some tarps or something, tight as a holiday package, to try to keep the elements out, right?
TOM: Big mistake.
LESLIE: Really? Not even in the winter if you’ve shut down that system completely? If it’s strictly a cooling thing.
TOM: (overlapping) Yep. Big … big mistake. Now, would either of you ladies like to guess why that’s a big mistake?
LESLIE: So, not even those beautiful sort of unit covers that the manufacturer sells to you? You should not use those?
TOM: You know, in the 20 years that I spent in the home inspection business, there was this development where – there must have been a guy that his like specialty sideline was making these metal covers to cover – custom cover – these air conditioning units. He must have gone house to house. I used to see them all over the place. And, inevitably, the houses that had the covers had air conditioners that did not last as long as the ones that had no covers. And the reason is one word: condensation.
If you cover the air conditioning unit, you end up getting a lot more moisture that condenses on the inside of that; as opposed to having those vents open all the time where it can dry out. And that is what rusts out the unit prematurely. So not a good idea to cover the air conditioning compressor.
If you happen to be in areas, say, where there’s a lot of trees and you’re getting a lot of debris in there, I think it’s okay to cover the top of the unit only. But don’t cover the sides; leave it open so that it can breathe.
WINNIE: Oh, good. Now, I was concerned about it. It’s been like that, you know, for the three years that it was new. But I was just thinking what … should I be doing something about it. You know …
TOM: Yeah. You don’t have to do anything but if you do anything at all, just cover the top to keep the leaves and twigs out. But leave the sides open.
WINNIE: Okay, well I’m not near any trees. I know twigs are not a …
TOM: Alright. Well, then, just don’t worry about it. Okay, Winnie?
WINNIE: Appreciate your answer. I appreciate it so much. Thank you.
TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: So, not even those fabric bag-like ones that fit over it?
TOM: Nope. Nope.
LESLIE: Then why do they sell them to you?
TOM: Because they can. (chuckling) They don’t always know … they do not always need it and they just really should never be used because if you cover that air conditioner compressor up, you’re going to have a lot of moisture collected in the inside of it and that’s going to rust it out and cause premature failure.
LESLIE: Hmm. Interesting.
TOM: You might even find that manufacturer’s will void warranties if you cover those things.
TOM: Yep. They might find that out. I’d have to look into that for sure but I know I’ve seen them rusted out, more times than I can count, by the people that just religiously wrap them up really tight.
LESLIE: I feel like a light bulb has been turned on in my head.
TOM: That’s what we do here on The Money Pit. We illuminate those ideas.
LESLIE: Hmm. Thank you, Tom.
TOM: You’re welcome. Who’s next?