As the scorching summer sun starts to fade and the refreshingly cool weather of fall starts to settle in, residents of Cottonwood & Prescott start preparing their homes and yards for the wintertime. For many, that leads to the question of whether they should cover their exterior air conditioning unit for the winter.

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

Here, the experts at Connolly Electric & Mechanical 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 supposed to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the winter. These machines are built with sturdy materials and hardware 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 elements from moisture and debris.

2. Covered AC Systems may Encourage Mold Growth

One of the reasons you shouldn’t 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 produces the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to flourish.

Mold and mildew not only have an undesirable aroma, but they can also pose health risks, especially for household residents with respiratory issues or allergies. Also, the unwanted moisture can corrode the internal components of the AC unit.

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

3. A Covered Air Conditioner Can Attract Animals

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

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats often make winter dens inside covered air conditioners. Animals residing in a covered AC unit can cause many problems. Rodents can chew through wires, insulation and other components, causing damage that may require costly repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to create a warm and comfortable bed can block airflow and ventilation, lowering the efficiency of the appliance and potentially causing it to overheat. Moreover, animal droppings can result in unsanitary conditions and foul odors.

Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps deter creatures, because an uncovered AC provides less shelter from cold weather than a covered unit. That’s better for your cooling system—and leaves you with less mess to throw away and things to repair in the spring.

4. An AC Cover Restricts Airflow

Another reason not to cover your air conditioning equipment in the winter is because a cover restricts airflow through the unit. Suitable airflow is crucial for the AC system because it assists heat exchange and allows the unit to cool effectively. When airflow is restricted, 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 AC without noticing that the outside unit is covered or because you simply forgot, it could result in a range of problems. One issue is that the shortage of appropriate airflow could cause the compressor to overheat, resulting in its failure or damage.  That’s why it is crucial 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 lots more effective to do a little maintenance for your cooling system than to cover your outdoor AC unit.

There are numerous key maintenance activities you should prioritize to ensure maximum performance and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s wise to check your outdoor AC unit regularly and get rid of any debris such as leaves, twigs 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 hinder effective heat exchange or airflow.

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