Necessary to cover top of central AC intake in winter?

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Hi , I have central air in my house and I live in the northeast. There is an outside unit that sits on a slab that I think brings in the air. Its a box and every side is metal screen. I was driving around my neighborhood yesterday and I saw that some people in my neighborhood had their AC units covered, just the top, with plastic. This would cut down on the air intake but maybe it is more important that ice and snow do not get inside? Are you supposed to cover the top of the intake in the winter? Thanks
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That's simply the condenser unit. Similar to the AC in your car it blows air over the condenser coil that has tubing in it with the freon (working fluid) to cool it down after it's been compressed, then it's expanded in the coil above your furnace (assuming forced air furnace) and the air from the return plenum in your house is blown over that and cooled.
In short, there's no air being drawn into your house from the outside unit. But covering it may not be a bad idea when it's not being used just to keep leaves, dirt, etc. out which can reduce efficiency and/or cause corrosion of the condenser's fins and tubes.
NB: if you have a heat pump system, the condenser is actually used as an evaporator in heat mode (basically the inside and outside coils switch functions) and therefore the outside unit is used year round and therefore shouldn't ever be covered.
nate
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It's optional. If you have trees around, covering just the top will keep leaves out and would be a good idea. I would not cover the whole thing as trapping moisture in there, keeping it constantly wet, will contribute to rust, corrosion, etc. I just replaced one that was 27 years old, never covered and it was still working OK.
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On Tue, 17 Jan 2012 07:07:48 -0800 (PST), " snipped-for-privacy@optonline.net"

Mine lasted 31 years, never covered. ( After that, the breaker tripped a second after starting the compressor, even though the fan had stawrted to spin.)
Even though there are trees around, it got very few leaves. just a few small pieces. I think they blew off the top before they rotted enough to slip in between the chome? wires. They've changed the kind of vents at the top since then and I don't know if that makes a difference.
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Back before I was covering mine the bottom of the unit would be covered in pin oak leaves. I dont know how bad other leaves are about getting in to it. I dont find them in my new heat pump. Maybe because it runs in the winter.
Jimmie
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On 1/17/2012 9:07 AM, snipped-for-privacy@optonline.net wrote:

Ditto.
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Mine's 14 years old, never covered. And never even cleaned. I really should do that this spring. Just because I'm curious. I'm not enthusiastic about work any more. Still might make me a bit proud though. Yep. That's the ticket.
--Vic
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wrote:

Installed mine in 1973. Covered it with a tarp every year, Take the top off each Spring: oil the fan motor, vacuum the coil and clean out the leaves. So far it's still working OK. So much for whether or not to cover it. MLD

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My system is a Lennox model. The company that installed it for me (a very reliable and reputable company, btw) strongly urges me to keep it covered in the winter. (I live in Kansas, where the winters can be quite vicious at times.) Covering it keeps leaves and other debris out, thereby facilitating cleaning coils, etc., in the spring and, as the serviceman said, it also helps keep "critters" from sneaking into the unit and making their homes therein during the winter. Lennox makes a tailor-made cover for the unit, and I religiously put it on the unit every winter. No problems. JimCo
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Do you call a priest, or a Rabbi to religiously put the cover on? Burn some incense, say a few prayers, and sprinkle it with holy water?
Now, I'm wondering. A condensor cover ceremony. That could involve a whole variety of different things. Maybe close to funeral rites, and rather somber, and dark. Bit of a procession, some ceremony and then lower the cover over the beloved condensor unit.
Enquiring minds want to know.
Christopher A. Young Learn more about Jesus www.lds.org .
My system is a Lennox model. The company that installed it for me (a very reliable and reputable company, btw) strongly urges me to keep it covered in the winter. (I live in Kansas, where the winters can be quite vicious at times.) Covering it keeps leaves and other debris out, thereby facilitating cleaning coils, etc., in the spring and, as the serviceman said, it also helps keep "critters" from sneaking into the unit and making their homes therein during the winter. Lennox makes a tailor-made cover for the unit, and I religiously put it on the unit every winter. No problems. JimCo
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On 1/20/2012 5:38 PM, Stormin Mormon wrote:

sounds rather catholic (cult like) to me.
--
Steve Barker
remove the "not" from my address to email
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Well, you caught me! I also handle snakes and speak in tongues when I put the cover on! ; - ) JimCo
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I bet your AC lasts longer than you do? The snakes thing makes a difference, you know.
Tongues -- that's when you're touching the 220 VAC power feed?
Christopher A. Young Learn more about Jesus www.lds.org .
Well, you caught me! I also handle snakes and speak in tongues when I put the cover on! ; - ) JimCo
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And, only thier guy has the power to do it right?
Christopher A. Young Learn more about Jesus www.lds.org .
On 1/20/2012 5:38 PM, Stormin Mormon wrote:

sounds rather catholic (cult like) to me.
--
Steve Barker
remove the "not" from my address to email
  Click to see the full signature.
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Ditto
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If you use it much, you'd have been better off it it failed instead of being preserved. Like what's the efficiency of that beast? It's probably half of a typical one that is sold today.
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If you use it much, you'd have been better off it it failed instead of being preserved. Like what's the efficiency of that beast? It's probably half of a typical one that is sold today.
You're right--it's probably very inefficient. When we get into a couple of heat waves as we did last summer my electric bill climbs well above normal. Lucky about one thing though that does reduces the pain--my city has it's own (municipal) power company and if you pay your bill before a specified date you get a 20% discount which can be quite substantial. However, being in the Northeast it really doesn't run all that much compared to a warmer climate, so I'll stick with it for as long as it lasts. MLD
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Of course, you'd still get that 20% discount off of your lower bill.
All it would take is a little math to determine the pay back period of a new unit and you'd know for sure how much more the '70's vintage unit is actually costing you over the long run. A fairly short payback period might change your mind about sticking with it for as long as it lasts.
Another thought....
I don't know anything about the economic health of your municipality, but if things are similar to most other places in the country, how confident are you that the 20% discount will remain available for as long as your old unit lasts?
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Of course, you'd still get that 20% discount off of your lower bill.
All it would take is a little math to determine the pay back period of a new unit and you'd know for sure how much more the '70's vintage unit is actually costing you over the long run. A fairly short payback period might change your mind about sticking with it for as long as it lasts.
Another thought....
I don't know anything about the economic health of your municipality, but if things are similar to most other places in the country, how confident are you that the 20% discount will remain available for as long as your old unit lasts?
A new unit would cost several thousand dollars (just a wild guess). We use AC here in Ma, on average, about 2 months of the year (July and Aug and maybe, the odd year, a piece of June. Even then it's not a 24/7 type of use but generally just several days at a time--a heat wave (if and when we get one) might last for a week and then it's over for a while. So if I spend $100+/year extra for electricity then my payback time is about 25-30 years--At my age, hardly an incentive to go for a new unit. With respect to receiving the 20% discount--well, they've been giving it for the last 50 years with no indication what so ever of taking it away. It's one perk that will probably never go away since the power company has always been a profitable enterprise for the city. MLD
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If you can run a central AC for that money, you are doing good. My window shaker cost me about $200 to $250 for normal summer.
Heat, OTOH, can be quite expensive if you have oil. The best time was a couple of years ago with a tax credit, but even today, many units can easily pay for themselves just out of the savings. If your unit is as old as the AC, consider it.
My oil savings this year will be about $135 a month versus the $68 payment on a no interest finance by the state. What's not to like?
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