As the hot summer heat starts to fade and the relief of fall starts to settle in, residents of East Bernard start preparing their homes and yards for the wintertime. For many, that leads to the question of whether they need to cover their outdoor air conditioning unit for the winter.

While it may seem like a great idea, the reality is there are multiple 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 sometimes cause problems.

Here, the professionals at E.B. Air 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 season. These units are built with solid materials and components that can handle the outdoor elements without damage. The coils and fins of the unit are engineered to resist corrosion, and the housing is designed to protect the internal elements from moisture and debris.

2. Covering AC Systems can Encourage Mold

One of the reasons you should avoid covering your AC unit in the wintertime 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 spread.

Mold and mildew not only have a bad odor, but they can also present health risks, especially for individuals with respiratory issues or allergies. Plus, the unwanted moisture can corrode the internal components of the AC unit.

Rather than covering the unit, instead make sure the unit has 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 Host Animals

People 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 wintry months. For many creatures, a covered air conditioner is an awesome winter dwelling.

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats often make winter dens inside covered air conditioners. Animals residing in a covered air conditioning unit can cause many problems. Rodents can chew through wires, insulation and other components, causing damage that may require pricey 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, limiting the efficiency of the unit and potentially causing it to overheat. Moreover, animal waste can result in unsanitary conditions and potent odors.

Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps dissuade wildlife, because an uncovered AC provides less shelter from cold weather than a covered unit. That’s better for your AC—and leaves you with less mess to clean up and things to repair in the spring.

4. A Winter Cover for AC Units Restricts Airflow

Another reason not to cover your air conditioner in the winter is because a cover limits airflow through the unit. Proper airflow is essential for the AC system because it helps with heat exchange and allows the unit to cool efficiently. When airflow is reduced, the system has to work harder to maintain the desired temperature, leading to increased energy consumption and strain on the components.

In addition, if you turn on your AC without realizing that the outside unit is covered or because you simply forgot, it could result in a range of problems. One issue is that the absence of appropriate airflow could cause the compressor to overheat, leading to its failure or damage.  That’s why it is essential to ensure the outdoor unit is always cleared of any blockages and is not covered to maintain the best possible airflow.

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

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

There are numerous key maintenance projects you should prioritize to ensure optimal performance and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s a good idea to examine your outdoor AC unit regularly and remove any debris such as leaves, small branches and dirt to maintain 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 efficient heat exchange or airflow.

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