Should I Cover My HVAC System During the Winter?

November 20, 2022
Winter HVAC in North Kansas City, MO

From about mid-fall to late spring throughout our Missouri and Kansas service area, homeowners don’t use their cooling systems. At Summit Heating and Cooling, we’re a leading HVAC company so many people ask us, “should I cover my HVAC system during the winter?” It makes sense to protect the unit during winter. However, a tight covering of plastic can actually be counterproductive, since it keeps moisture in and air stagnant. There’s much more to learn about caring for your HVAC equipment during the winter as well.

Why not just seal up your AC system outside? Tight covers can lead to mold and rust developing in the unit over the winter, and cleanup or repair problems in spring. At Summit, we have many suggestions for protecting your equipment investment. It faces snow and ice, stormy weather blowing debris inside, small creatures nesting, and even HVAC equipment theft.

Things to Do for Your Outdoor AC Unit in Fall

It is always best to have a professional maintain your HVAC equipment. Our technicians are trained to understand the differences in equipment, thus understand how best to maintain it. Outdoor AC units are designed to be durable, standing up to winter cold and weather fairly well. Still, it always helps to protect them further in ways that give them less of winter’s fury to deal with. You can shut off the power to standard non-communicating air conditioners, this is a really good idea when you cover them with anything. Remember to remove the cover in the spring before operating. Our recommendation is to protect your AC from winter weather and debris falling into it with a vinyl cover that only goes down a foot or so over the sides. Ask our technicians about these covers when we are performing your maintenance. A communicating system with an air conditioner can be covered, but the system will not work if you shut off the power to the indoor or outdoor unit. NEVER cover a heat pump. Covering a heat pump can cause catastrophic damage to the compressor and drastically shorten the life of the unit. With all that being said, its always best to be sure and trust your preventative maintenance to the professionals at Summit Heating and Cooling.

A very important note: Since a heat pump looks a lot like an outdoor AC unit, it’s important to make sure you’re not covering a working heat pump that you’ll be running through the winter to keep warm.

The Issue of Windblown Debris

The HVAC unit’s durable cover needs to have plenty of openings for ventilation. Unfortunately, it also allows dirt, twigs, and other debris to blow in, especially during stormy weather. Our regular maintenance prior to starting the unit for the season includes a thorough cleanout, especially since dirty coils have significantly reduced cooling efficiency. Debris can also affect mechanical and electrical operation, and cause problems with components inside the enclosure. Covering the unit properly helps keep windblown items from entering while your AC stands idle for months.

It is an important thing to remember when Kansas City’s winter weather comes and drifting snow piles up around your house, it is also piling up around your heat pump. Its important to clear the snow from around the unit so it can operate properly. It is also important so that ice doesn’t form on the unit and damage it.

Animal Nesting and Electrical Damage

Any loose edges or holes in the HVAC unit enclosure can be entrances for small animals to enter and nest. In many cases, they seem to find their way in even when a visual inspection doesn’t uncover any gaps in coverage. Once inside, the creatures have a safe, protected space for many months. They can live, raise young, and bring in food to share. As you can imagine, this can create quite a mess to clean out when spring maintenance time comes. In fact, small animals often use wires and other materials from the HVAC system’s components as nesting material. This results in more work to diagnose and repair related issues on first starting the unit, checking every wire and component for damage and missing parts. If they chew or remove wire fastening components, wires may vibrate loose during the summer as well.

Vacation Homes and Unoccupied Properties

In most cases, the HVAC equipment at your vacation home or unoccupied property can be protected much like a regular property during the winter. Ask our experts for long-term protection, theft protection, and care of your heat pump or furnace system whether they are going to continue providing heat, or winterized as well.

Ductless Mini-Split Winterization

Ductless mini-split systems are quite similar to regular HVAC systems, with many of the same concerns for the outdoor component. Cleaning of indoor distribution heads is usually simpler than evaporator system cleaning for central AC. Mini-split AC systems can be winterized since they won’t be needed. Mini-split heat pump systems will be taking good care of your comfort with warmth all winter long. They should be protected from snow and ice as much as possible, not covered or otherwise obstructed.

Modular Home AC Winterization

Summit Heating and Cooling’s specialized training includes heating and cooling systems for modular homes. We can help you with proper winterization, including getting the most from your heating system by cleaning filters and sealing fan assemblies.

Your Four-Season HVAC Service Team Serving the Greater Kansas City Area

At Summit our team provides year-round services for your home’s HVAC equipment. We’re also here to answer your questions, helping you get the most from your HVAC system over many years of service. Call today and learn more about any of your in-home comfort needs.

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