How a Decorative AC Cover Will Murder Your Air Conditioner

December 16, 2014

Want to know the quickest way to kill your central air conditioner?

Strangle it. Strangle it with a decorative air conditioner cover.

The cover seems like a smart idea at first: You’re adding beauty to the backyard while hiding ugly machinery at the same time.

But, like people, air conditioners need their space.

Without enough space above and around the AC, things get ugly (i.e., high energy bills and a destroyed compressor.)

Why your outside AC unit needs its space

Your AC’s condensing unit (the outside unit with the fan) dumps the heat from your home into the air outside.

To do that, the unit needs the right amount of air flowing over the condenser coils (the part with hot liquid refrigerant flowing through it).

But the decorative AC cover restricts airflow around the unit. Restricting airflow can cause the AC compressor to overheat and die.

And, oh boy, do you not want that.

The compressor is the mechanical heart of the AC unit. So if it dies, you might as well replace the entire outside unit because replacing just the compressor is mighty expensive.

And if you replace the outside unit, you’ll want to also replace the inside unit so that the units match.  What about fences, are those OK?

What about fences, are those OK?

Many homeowners use a fence to protect the outside unit from dogs that use the unit as their bathroom break spot.

But is it OK to put a fence around the unit?

Yes, provided that the fence isn’t too close to the outside unit. There’s no standard amount of space a unit needs. (Each manufacturer's installation instruction manual may list a different distance.)

But, as a rule of thumb, leave at least 2 feet (24 inches) clear on all sides of the outside unit. And don’t ever cover the top of your AC unit.

So, long story short

  • Say “no” to AC decorative covers
  • Give you AC breathing room
  • Fences are OK given that they leave 2 feet of space around the unit

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