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Can I cover my HVAC unit?

July 3, 2019

Our customers in Los Angeles, California sometimes ask this question: Can I cover up an HVAC outdoor unit?

Reasons you might want to cover your HVAC Unit

If this is something you’ve never even considered, then the question may puzzle you. Perhaps you’ve never set foot to look at your outdoor system. However, there are many reasons that someone might want to cover their HVAC unit.

  • Property values depend heavily on a buyer’s first impression of the home. Savvy homeowners take great care to improve curb appeal, which can help drive up the cost of a home that is for sale.
  • Aesthetics are essential to our customers in LA. Your home should look and feel like the sanctuary it is. If the AC unit is in a prominent place on the property, like next to a pool, it can feel like an eyesore.
  • Proper care and maintenance of an air conditioning system is vital to their longevity. If there are trees or other landscaping that often cause debris to fall on or even inside an HVAC unit, you may be tempted to cover it up.

Ideally, it is best to keep your air conditioner unobstructed. But, we understand there are valid concerns and desires to wanting to conceal your condenser.


If you are seeking to hide your unit from view, then the answer is yes! You can hide your HVAC unit. However, that doesn’t mean you can build a box around your system. Air conditioning units require something called free airflow.

Talk Science to Me

The air around your HVAC system is the means for refrigerant to get cold. AC systems draw air across the condensing coils, using the temperature of the air to cool the fluid in the coil, and then shoots the hot exhaust air away.

If you block the airflow to the unit, the fan must work much harder to draw the appropriate amount of air across the coils. That could lead to higher energy bills and an increased likelihood that your unit will require repair sooner.

Separately, if you encase the unit, it could cause the air to shortcircuit. The warm exhaust air needs to be sent far away from the system so that it draws only cooler air across the coils. If warm air cannot escape to the environment, your system could have problems performing well, and after a small amount of time operating like this, the system is not able to cool at all.

In short, studies have shown that when shrubs, walls, or other objects are placed too close to a condensing unit it reduces system efficiency. If you can, leaving your AC condenser completely unobstructed is best.

Thinking of covering your HVAC unit for maintenance reasons?

If you want to cover your HVAC unit to keep the elements at bay, we have specific advice for you. You don’t need to do this! Air conditioning systems are built to endure harsh weather conditions, moisture, and even some debris.

Covering your AC unit with a tarp or other cover can cause other problems! For example, rodents seek shelter in covered areas like this during the colder months. Also, you might forget to remove the cover when you first turn on your AC, and that can cause big operational problems.

As long as you have your air conditioner serviced once a year, your system receives regularly cleaning. During our preventative maintenance visits, we rinse your unit and clean out any debris. So, make sure you take care of these visits before it starts to get hot here in southern California!

Guidelines: If you want to cover your HVAC unit

Ready to disguise your air conditioning system? Follow these essential guidelines:

  1. Service Area – remember that your system needs servicing by a certified technician at least once a year. Make sure that any barrier you create is simple to enter. Also, there should be at least 2-3 feet of clear area around the system.
  2. Choose appropriate landscaping – bushes are a popular option to hide A/C units. Be sure that you choose landscaping that doesn’t create a lot of debris, such as falling leaves, nuts, or fruit. Also, keep in mind that landscaping needs regular trimming to ensure it doesn’t encroach on your AC unit.
  3. Free Airflow – Be sure that the air conditioner has open space to encourage free airflow. If you choose fencing or other structural materials to cover your HVAC unit, be sure that there is plenty of slats or other open areas in the material. The ratio of open area to the material should be at least 50%, ideally higher. Walls or barriers should be placed no closer than 3 feet to the sides of the system.

Have a question about your AC?

Air conditioners are somewhat of a mystery to most homeowners. That’s where Brody Pennell, the experts is HVAC, come in. We’d be happy to answer any inquiries about your heating and cooling system. As the longest-standing Carrier dealer in Los Angeles, we have decades of experience in the industry. Give us a call anytime an HVAC concern comes to mind.

About The Author

Brody Pennell

Since 1945, Brody Pennell Heating & Air Conditioning is the committed to helping homeowners in the greater Los Angeles area experience total home comfort. In 2021, the readers of the Los Angeles Times voted Brody Pennell the Best HVAC Company in the area.

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