As the scorching summer heat starts to fade and the refreshingly cool weather of fall starts to settle in, residents of Swanton start preparing their homes and yards for the wintertime. For many, that leads to the question of whether they ought to cover their exterior air conditioner for the winter.

While it may seem like a good idea, the truth is there are many reasons why you shouldn’t cover your AC unit in the winter. On top of not being something you need to do, covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment can even cause problems.

Here, the specialists at Northwest Services share five reasons why covering your AC doesn’t need to be on your fall to-do list and what you should do instead.

1. Your AC can Handle Snow

Outdoor AC units are designed to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the wintertime. These machines are built with durable materials and parts that can handle the outdoor elements without damage. The coils and fins of the unit are constructed to resist corrosion, and the housing is designed to protect the internal elements from moisture and debris.

2. Covered AC Systems may Encourage Mold Growth

One of the reasons you should not cover your outdoor air conditioning equipment in the cold months is because doing so can trap moisture—which is the opposite of what you want in your outdoor unit. That’s because allowing moisture to collect inside the unit generates the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to thrive.

Mold and mildew not only have an unpleasant odor, but they can also create health risks, especially for people with respiratory issues or allergies. Additionally, the unwanted moisture can corrode the internal components of the AC unit.

Rather than covering the unit, instead provide proper drainage and keep the area around the unit clean of debris, allowing for efficient airflow and preventing moisture buildup.

3. Your Covered Air Conditioning Unit Can Host Animals

You and your family aren’t the only ones who prepare for winter. Animals that live around your home are also looking for a warm, cozy place to crash for the winter months. For many creatures, a covered air conditioner is the perfect winter refuge.

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats commonly make winter dens inside covered air conditioners. Animals dwelling in a covered air conditioner can cause many problems. Rodents can chew through wires, insulation and other parts, causing damage that may require expensive repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to make themselves a warm and comfortable nest can block airflow and ventilation, reducing the efficiency of the AC and potentially causing it to overheat. Additionally, animal excrement can result in unsanitary conditions and bad odors.

Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps discourage wildlife, because an uncovered AC provides less shelter from the elements than a covered unit. That’s better for your AC—and leaves you with less mess to clean up and things to repair when winter is over.

4. An AC Cover Restricts Airflow

Another reason it’s better that you don’t cover your AC unit in the winter is because a cover limits airflow through the unit. Adequate airflow is essential for the AC system because it helps with heat exchange and permits the unit to cool properly. When airflow is severely limited, the system has to work harder to reach the desired temperature, causing increased energy consumption and strain on the components.

In addition, if you run your air conditioning without noticing that the outdoor unit is covered or because you simply forgot, it could result in a range of problems. One issue is that the lack of correct airflow could cause the compressor to overheat, causing its failure or damage.  That’s why it is crucial to ensure the outdoor unit is free from barriers and is not covered to maintain maximum airflow.

5. AC Maintenance Is More Effective Than Covering Your Air Conditioner

The bottom line is, it’s a whole lot more effective to do a little maintenance for your air conditioning unit than to cover your exterior AC unit.

There are numerous key maintenance tasks you should prioritize to ensure optimal performance and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s wise to examine your outdoor AC unit regularly and pull out any debris such as leaves, sticks and dirt to promote proper airflow. Second, examine and clean the coils, fins and filters to make sure there isn’t any dirt and dust buildup that would hinder successful heat exchange or airflow.

Regular air conditioning maintenance not only boosts efficiency, but it also helps extend the unit’s life span, reduces energy consumption and protects against costly repairs. Rather than using a cover, investing time and effort into routine air conditioning maintenance is a proactive strategy that can substantially benefit your entire HVAC system in the long run.