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

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

Here, the specialists at Dearing's Service & Solutions 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. Snow won't Hurt Your AC

Outdoor AC units are designed to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the wintertime. These units are built with solid 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 manufactured to protect the internal components from moisture and debris.

2. Covering AC Systems can Encourage Mold

One of the reasons you should avoid covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment in the wintertime 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 generates the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to flourish.

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

Rather than 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. Covered AC Systems Can Host Animals

Humans aren’t the only ones who make plans for winter. Animals that live around your home are also looking for a warm, cozy place to live for the winter months. For many animals, a covered air conditioner is an ideal winter dwelling.

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats often make homes inside covered air conditioners. Animals dwelling in a covered AC unit can cause many problems. Mice can chew through wires, insulation and other parts, causing damage that may require pricey repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to make themselves a warm and comfortable bed can impair airflow and ventilation, reducing the efficiency of the appliance and potentially causing it to overheat. Additionally, animal waste can result in unsanitary conditions and foul odors.

Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps discourage animals, because an uncovered AC gives them less shelter from chilly temperatures 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. Covering Your Air Conditioner Restricts Airflow

Another reason you shouldn't cover your AC unit 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 permits the unit to cool properly. When airflow is severely limited, the system has to work harder to achieve the desired temperature, resulting in additional energy consumption and strain on the components.

In addition, if you turn on your AC without knowing that the outside unit is covered or because you simply forgot, it could result in a range of problems. One issue is that the lack 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 obstructions 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 a whole lot more effective to do a little maintenance for your air conditioner than to cover your outdoor AC unit.

There are numerous key maintenance tasks you should prioritize to ensure maximum 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, twigs and dirt to allow proper airflow. Second, check and clean the coils, fins and filters to make sure there isn't any dirt and dust buildup that would impede effective heat exchange or airflow.

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