Should I Keep My AC Unit Clear of Snow?

Outdoor air conditioning units are designed to live outdoors, and that includes weathering the cold and snow of winters like we get here in St. Louis. However, excess snow and ice inside the outdoor unit can ultimately damage the parts and lead to early breakdowns. After snow, sleet, or freezing rain, it’s always a good idea to check your AC unit.

Are Air Conditioner Covers Recommended?

Many stores sell plastic or canvas covers for air conditioners, similar to the covers you might use on a backyard barbecue. We do not recommend these products for long-term use. They can help for temporary coverage of a few days during a severe snowstorm, but they should be removed quickly afterward.

Some moisture will inevitably get inside the AC cover. When that happens, you now have moisture trapped inside the covered air conditioner. Trapped moisture is what can cause damage, so it’s better to let the equipment breathe throughout the winter.

Why Snow Can Damage Your Outdoor AC Unit?

Your air conditioner can handle some snow without any problems, but damage can occur when you get a lingering build-up of ice. Snow piles onto the coil and other internal parts of the outdoor unit, putting things at risk of rust and corrosion. The snow often partly melts and then re-freezes into a block of ice around the parts, and may not melt for quite a while.

When the time comes for air conditioning, you might discover a major breakdown. More likely, the AC will run a bit less efficiently, need repairs sooner, and ultimately need replacement sooner than it would have otherwise.

How to Protect an Air Conditioner from Snow & Ice

Clearing snow from an AC unit is as simple as knocking off excess accumulation:

  • Sweep or brush off snow shortly after significant snowfall.
  • Keep a clear radius of at least one foot around the unit.
  • If using a cover, put it on and take it off for snow storms; don’t leave it all winter.
  • Do not pour very hot or boiling water on ice to defrost a frozen AC unit. Mild water is okay, but you can crack parts by shocking the temperature with hot water.
  • Check the AC unit for debris and frost before the next time you use it.

Don’t Forget Annual Air Conditioner Maintenance

Whether the winter has been mild or brutal, always be sure to conduct seasonal air conditioning maintenance in the spring. An AC tune-up will find small problems before they “snowball” into bigger issues, and you’ll get better energy efficiency and longevity out of it.

In the St. Louis and Fenton, MO area, you can rely on the friendly experts at Metro Heating & Cooling for air conditioning maintenance. Call 314-845-5900 or request an estimate for HVAC services whenever you need us.