As the hot summer heat starts to fade and the refreshingly cool weather of fall starts to settle in, residents of Plover start preparing their homes and yards for the winter. For many, that leads to the question of whether they should cover their outside air conditioning unit for the winter.

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

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

1. Snow won't Hurt Your AC

Outdoor AC units are designed to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the winter. These systems are built with solid 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 crafted to protect the internal parts from moisture and debris.

2. Covering Your Air Conditioner Can Cause Mold

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 definitely not what you want in your outdoor unit. That’s because trapping moisture inside the unit produces the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to flourish.

Mold and mildew not only have a bad aroma, but they can also pose health risks, especially for household residents with respiratory issues or allergies. Plus, the unwanted 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 free of debris, allowing for efficient airflow and preventing moisture buildup.

3. Your Covered Air Conditioning Unit Can Attract Animals

You and your family aren’t the only ones who get ready for winter. Animals that live around your home are also looking for a warm, cozy place to live for the cold months. For many animals, a covered air conditioner is an awesome winter dwelling.

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats often make nests inside covered air conditioners. Animals dwelling in a covered air conditioning unit can cause numerous problems. Mice can chew through wires, insulation and other connections, causing damage that may require expensive repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to construct a warm and comfortable home can impair airflow and ventilation, reducing the efficiency of the AC and potentially causing it to overheat. In addition, animal excrement can result in unsanitary conditions and potent odors.

Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps discourage creatures, because an uncovered AC offers less shelter from the elements than a covered unit. That’s better for your air conditioner—and leaves you with less mess to pick 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 conditioner in the winter is because a cover blocks airflow through the unit. Proper airflow is crucial for the AC system because it helps with heat exchange and permits the unit to cool efficiently. When airflow is reduced, the system has to work harder to maintain the desired temperature, resulting in greater energy consumption and strain on the components.

In addition, if you use your air conditioner without realizing that the exterior 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, causing its failure or damage.  That’s why it is necessary to ensure the outdoor unit has no blockages and is not covered to maintain the best possible airflow.

5. AC Maintenance Offers More Benefits Than Covering Your Air Conditioner

The bottom line is, it's much more effective to do a little maintenance for your cooling system than to cover your exterior AC unit.

There are several key maintenance projects you should prioritize to ensure the best possible performance and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s smart to look at your outdoor AC unit regularly and pull out any debris such as leaves, sticks and dirt to maintain proper airflow. Second, check and clean the coils, fins and filters to make sure there isn't any dirt and dust buildup that would prevent effective heat exchange or airflow.

Scheduled air conditioning maintenance not only boosts efficiency, but it also helps extend the unit's life span, decreases energy consumption and avoids 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.