Do I Need An Air Conditioner Cover?

By
Home Inspector with Structure Tech Home Inspections

Summer is gone, fall is here, and it’s time to get around to all the fall chores – put up your storm windows, turn off the outside sillcocks, cover up the air conditioner… wait, scratch that last one.  Don’t waste your time or money installing a cover on your AC unit.  I’ve already seen people start to cover their air conditioners this year, but there’s no need to.

Air Conditioner Cover

Why do people even install air conditioner covers?  One company that sells covers claims that their AC cover “protects from dirt, hail, snow, ice, nesting animals, moisture, bitter cold, and harsh sunlight.”  Wow, that list makes me not want to go outside.  Let’s review those one at a time.

  • Dirt – When the fan on an AC unit is running, air will be sucked in on all sides of the unit, and this is when most dirt and dust accumulates.  When the unit is just sitting dormant, outdoor contaminants don’t get sucked in.
  • Hail – We don’t get hail during the winter here in Minnesota.
  • Snow – Snow won’t hurt the AC unit.
  • Ice – Ice won’t hurt the AC unit.
  • Nesting Animals – I’ve never seen this happen, and I can’t figure out how it could.
  • Moisture – C’mon, seriously?
  • Bitter Cold – Get out.
  • Harsh Sunlight – Ok, that’s enough.

AC units are designed to be installed outdoors all year ’round.  They are designed to hold up to the elements – they don’t need a cover.  The manufacturers have already taken things like ‘harsh sunlight’ in to account.  If you need proof, just check the web sites of some of the larger manufacturers, such as Rheem and Lennox.  They specifically say their units shouldn’t be covered, because the covers can trap moisture, which can cause damage to the unit.

If you want to keep stuff from falling in to the top of your air conditioner during the fall, just put something on top of it, like a piece of plywood.  While it seems a little laughable, even a makeshift cover like the one pictured below will work just fine, as long as you do something to keep it from blowing off.  This will keep debris from falling in the top of the unit, and it won’t trap moisture.  If you want something that doesn’t look silly, install a very short cover.

Makeshift Air Conditioner Cover

Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections – Email  Wayzata Home Inspections

 

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  1. Debbie Walsh 12/06/2009 10:39 AM
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Ambassador
1,068,214
Charles Buell
Seattle Home Inspector
Charles Buell Inspections Inc.

Reuben, I am surprised you want the poor unit to sit out there and shiver in the cold all winter:)

October 20, 2009 09:38 AM
Rainmaker
229,481
Reuben Saltzman
Minneapolis Home Inspections
Structure Tech Home Inspections

I know, pretty cruel of me.  Maybe I'll set out some hot coco.

October 20, 2009 03:44 PM
Rainmaker
205,571
Erby Crofutt
The Central Kentucky Home Inspector, Lexington KY
B4 U Close Home Inspections&Radon Testing (www.b4uclose.com)

You're cruel, Reuben, just cruel.  I'll bet you're also cruel enough to leave your poor roof uncovered all winter too, aren't you!  C'mon, admit it!

There oughta be a law!

 

-

October 22, 2009 04:07 PM
Rainmaker
229,481
Reuben Saltzman
Minneapolis Home Inspections
Structure Tech Home Inspections

Erby - no way.  There's usually a good foot of snow on top of my roof to protect it from the harsh sunlight!

October 22, 2009 07:18 PM
Rainmaker
205,571
Erby Crofutt
The Central Kentucky Home Inspector, Lexington KY
B4 U Close Home Inspections&Radon Testing (www.b4uclose.com)

I am so glad to see that, at least where your roof is concerned, you're a kind hearted person to protect your roof like that.  And, at least a whole foot of it.  You're such a generous guy.

October 24, 2009 08:00 AM
Rainmaker
238,853
Gene Allen
Realtor Hampton Roads Real Estate
Resh Realty Group

It probably wouldn't hurt to have a cover although mine is 20 years old without one.

October 24, 2009 03:58 PM
Rainmaker
626,489
James Quarello
Connecticut Home Inspector
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC

I remember a instructor at a heating seminar years ago saying exactly the same thing. In fact covering them is more often detrimental not helpful.

October 25, 2009 09:06 AM
Rainmaker
229,481
Reuben Saltzman
Minneapolis Home Inspections
Structure Tech Home Inspections

Gene - no surprises there.  

James - I think I heard something similar at an ASHI seminar many years ago too.

October 25, 2009 04:15 PM
Rainer
2,450
John Hill About The House Inspection Services
About The House, LLC

Reuben, greatpost! Sending the readers to the manufacturing site was a great idea!  Here in the south, we never see covers and hope we never do! Ha!

November 27, 2009 03:02 PM
Rainmaker
716,974
Debbie Walsh
Hudson Valley NY Real Estate 845.928.8000
Keller Williams Realty

Reuben-I am going to use this for a reblog-good post.  We were just discussing this in my house today.

 

December 06, 2009 10:37 AM
Rainmaker
1,390,338
Maureen McCabe
Columbus Ohio Real Estate
HER Realtors

I know I have seen them in years past maybe when I lived in WI, wait back then most WI people were proud they did not use AC.   I don't  know that there is a market for covers here.

December 06, 2009 10:56 AM
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Reuben Saltzman

Minneapolis Home Inspections
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