One of the most overlooked parts of having a central air system is covering up your condenser. Most people think, “it was fine all summer, so winter will be no different.” We would beg to differ on this, for the simple reason that winter is Cold and Cruel to machinery. Just think for a moment of how many things you leave outside and find ruined by nature.
Dirt and Debris
The smallest thing to worry about is what can get inside your condenser that shouldn’t be there. As temperatures drop, trees are going to lose their leaves and smaller branches. Rodents will invariably seek shelter anywhere warm or enclosed. And of course, wherever small rodents go, they’re going to build a nest. Where rodents build a nest, they’re probably also going to find some tasty wires to nibble on through those long, cold nights.
These things may seem minor, but they can be a real pain come spring. You’ll need to get the cover taken off and remove all the debris that shouldn’t be there. You’ll need to wash off your condenser coils in order to get the maximum possible efficiency. If any little critters got in there and had a tasty copper and rubber salad, you’ll also have to invest in the repair guy coming out and replacing something expensive. Who wants to put up with that?
There’s also the threat of what water can do. We’ve mentioned it before and it bares repeating: don’t let water freeze in your condenser. Prolonged exposure to water where it doesn’t belong is going to cause it’s own myriad problems. At the top of the list, you’ve got ice damaging fragile pieces of hardware. You’ve got ice and water encouraging rust and corrosion. If you’re particularly unlucky or if you’ve endured a couple wet winters without covering up, things are going to be getting expensive eventually.
In the spring, you could open up the unit to discover a leaking condenser coil, shot bearings in the compressor, or maybe you’re going to have a nightmare just getting the thing apart from the fasteners having rusted firmly in place. Cold, wet weather is simply not good for any machine. Given that a condenser by its nature can’t have much casing or protection from the elements, it’s doubly exposed.
It Gets Worse
These problems tend to compound on top of each other as well. Having debris and little rats’ nests will trap melting snow and rainfall. You’re at risk for things to be clogged up, soaked, corroded, rusted, and broken by the time spring rolls around. At the very least, you’re welcoming incremental damage. The winter doesn’t have to break something, it just has to nibble away at it and take two or three years of useful life out of a multi-thousand-dollar piece of equipment.
It Also Gets Better
These problems exist because your condenser needs airflow during the summer. We could easily build a metal box to sit out in the winter that doesn’t get damaged by any of the elements. We just run into the issue that, without holes and openings, it can’t dissipate heat. If it can’t dissipate heat, it can’t function.
The solution to this is that we cover up those openings as best as possible. For this, we have condenser covers. They’re cheap and easy to install. You put them over the condenser just as you would your fancy $700 grill or your $15,000 motorcycle. You apply protection to things which can’t stand up to the cold elements. Any of these things can laugh off thunderstorms all summer long, but you need to invest that little $50 in making sure they last as many winters as possible. It’s worth it in the end for the half hour of preventative maintenance.