As the hot summer sun starts to fade and the refreshingly cool weather of fall starts to settle in, residents of Crown Point start preparing their homes and yards for the winter. For many, that leads to the question of whether they need to cover their outside air conditioner for the winter.

While it may seem like a smart idea, the fact is there are a number of reasons why you shouldn’t cover your AC unit in the winter. In addition to not being necessary, covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment can actually cause problems.

Here, the specialists at Struven Heating & Cooling share five reasons why covering your air conditioning equipment doesn’t need to be on your fall to-do list and what you should do instead.

1. Snow won’t Hurt Your AC

Exterior AC units are supposed to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the winter season. These systems are built with sturdy materials and components that can handle the outdoor elements without damage. The coils and fins of the unit are specially developed to resist corrosion, and the housing is manufactured to protect the internal components from moisture and debris.

2. Covering Your Air Conditioner Can Cause Mold

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

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

As an alternative to covering the unit, instead ensure proper drainage and keep the area around the unit clear 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 make plans for winter. Animals that live around your home are also searching for a warm, cozy place to live for the cold months. For many creatures, a covered air conditioner is an awesome winter refuge.

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats commonly make nests inside covered air conditioners. Animals residing in a covered AC unit can cause many problems. Rats can chew through wires, insulation and other components, causing damage that may require costly repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to construct a warm and comfortable place to get out of the cold weather can block airflow and ventilation, lowering the efficiency of the unit and potentially causing it to overheat. In addition, animal droppings can result in unsanitary conditions and foul odors.

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

4. A Winter Cover for AC Units Restricts Airflow

Another reason you shouldn’t cover your air conditioning equipment in the winter is because a cover restricts airflow through the unit. Proper airflow is essential for the AC system because it assists heat exchange and enables the unit to cool properly. When airflow is severely limited, the system has to work harder to achieve the desired temperature, causing additional energy consumption and strain on the components.

In addition, if you run your AC 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 shortage of proper airflow could cause the compressor to overheat, leading to its failure or damage.  That’s why it is crucial to ensure the outdoor unit has no barriers and is not covered to maintain the best possible airflow.

5. AC Maintenance Works Better Than Covering Your Air Conditioner

The bottom line is, it’s lots more effective to do a little maintenance for your cooling system than to cover your outside AC unit.

There are numerous key maintenance tasks you should prioritize to ensure maximum function and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s smart to check your outdoor AC unit regularly and remove any debris such as leaves, small branches and dirt to promote proper airflow. Second, inspect and clean the coils, fins and filters to make sure you don’t see any dirt and dust buildup that would impede effective heat exchange or airflow.

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