Should I Cover My A/C Unit in the Winter?

Learn the right and wrong way to protect your A/C unit during the off-season.

Outdoor A/C unit must withstand all weather.

Should You Cover Your A/C Unit?

Learn the best ways to maintain your A/C unit in the off season.

Photo by: Shutterstock


When summer’s over and fall nights roll into town, off goes the A/C and on goes the heat. Fall’s a great time to maintain home systems, and outdoor A/C units tend to be one of those workhorses that some homeowners overlook as they transition into their reliance on heating systems.

One of the most-asked questions from homeowners with hardworking A/C units is: When the season’s over, should I cover it for protection?

Modern outdoor A/C systems are built very well and tested to ensure that they will hold up in extreme circumstances, as demonstrated below. The condenser (the big box that sits outside) is outfitted with a durable finish to withstand snow, rain and the heat of the sun. The mechanics and coils within the box are well-designed to hold up to extreme heat and cold, too. The quality of the materials and the product’s finish are a big reason that it’s typically unnecessary to cover the A/C unit in the off-season.

An A/C unit in SEET weather simulation testing at Trane.

Extreme SEET weather simulation testing at Trane.

Product testing to ensure durability in all weather conditions.

Photo by: Trane


The most important thing that any homeowner can do to winterize the system is check the product for leaves, pine needles, branches, animal nests and other build-up. These items can cause damage and affect the unit's ability to perform well over time.

Your geography and the positioning of your outdoor A/C condenser may be more likely to impact whether or not (or to what degree) you cover the unit during the winter.

In the north (where A/C might only be used for 4-6 months of the year), one of the reasons you might be advised to cover your A/C unit after summer is to protect it from the weight of falling leaves, and from impending snowfall and ice build-up. Though the units are certainly tested to withstand icy conditions, excessive snow and ice can be damaging to the coils over time. One thing to keep in mind is that any type of plastic or airflow-restrictive covering will actually promote rusting and internal moisture damage, and therefore should never be used. (Also, those cozy, water-tight covers may encourage animals to make their home inside you’re A/C unit, which you definitely want to avoid.) Tim Storm, Senior Product Manager at Trane, suggests that “it doesn’t hurt to cover up the unit if it's not used during the winter months, as long as the cover or fabric can breathe and does not lock in moisture, which could be detrimental to the finish and components.”

Building of HGTV Green Home 2012 north exterior drainage located in Serenbe, Georgia


Building of HGTV Green Home 2012 north exterior drainage located in Serenbe, Georgia

Photo by: Jason Kisner

Jason Kisner

Another solution that’s an alternative to a breathable wrap is an accessory that attaches to the top of the unit to create a barrier against debris, improve airflow and help redirect water. Check with your product’s manufacturer to see if there is an all-weather protective attachment for your A/C unit.

If your home utilizes window A/C units during the summer months, it’s best to remove them from the windows when the weather turns cold. This will help prevent drafts around the appliance and will also help the unit last longer, as they are not intended to be left in place year-round. Never cover them with plastic, as it will trap moisture and contribute to mold growth when the product is not in use.

Wall-mounted units, which are more difficult to remove during the fall and winter, can also be covered with a breathable fabric that will help alleviate drafts without collecting moisture.

Master Bathroom at DIY Network Blog Cabin 2016

Clean Air

The master bathroom includes a wall-mounted heat pump mini-split indoor unit with two advanced filters that clean and deodorize the air passing through it.

Photo by: Photos: Christopher Shane/Styling: Elizabeth Demos

Photos: Christopher Shane/Styling: Elizabeth Demos

Next Up

A Guide to the Different Types of HVAC Systems

Learn about the common types of HVAC systems and how they work, including split systems, furnaces, boilers and more. Find out which is best for your home, whether or not you can retrofit AC to an old system and how much you can expect to pay.

The Best Window Air Conditioning Units for Every Budget

As temperatures rise, beat the heat with a window AC unit. Check out these top-rated models with features like quiet operation for bedrooms and stylish clear panels so the whole window isn't blocked.

How to Recharge Your Car's A/C in 15 Minutes

Get your car's air conditioning in shape for summer and beat the heat with these easy steps.

Easy Steps to Keep Your Air-Conditioning Unit Running Smoothly

Regular cleaning and maintenance will save you money and extend the life of your heat pump or HVAC unit.

How to Clean an AC Filter

A clean or new filter in your air conditioner will help it run more efficiently, thus saving money on your utility bills. Plus, it improves the air quality in your home and keeps allergens away.

The Best Portable Air Conditioners Under $600 in 2024

As temperatures rise, beat the heat with a portable AC unit. Check out these top-rated models with features like quiet operation for bedrooms and dehumidifiers for hot, humid spaces.

Air Duct Cleaning 101

Is cleaning your HVAC air ducts really that important? Get to know your home’s system, learn how you can improve its function yourself and know when it’s time to consult a professional for cleaning.

10 Best Air Conditioner Covers and Fences

Give your outdoor AC unit a cool facelift with these top-rated air conditioner covers and privacy screens.

The Best Deals on Window-Mounted and Portable Air Conditioners Right Now

Find the right fit for your space, and stay cool this summer without breaking the bank.

How to Clean AC Coils

The summer heat is hard on an air conditioning system. This year, stop the problems before they start by cleaning your coils and taking other small precautions to set your system up for success and lower your utility bills.

Go Shopping

Get product recommendations from HGTV editors, plus can’t-miss sales and deals.

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.