As the sweltering summer sunshine starts to fade and the relief of fall starts to settle in, residents of Reinholds start preparing their homes and yards for the the upcoming cold weather. 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 smart idea, the fact is there are many reasons why you shouldn’t cover your AC unit in the winter. On top of not being something you need to do, covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment can sometimes cause problems.

Here, the specialists at County Line Mechanical LLC 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. Your AC can Handle Snow

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

2. Covered AC Systems may Encourage Mold Growth

One of the reasons you should not cover your outdoor air conditioning equipment in the winter is because doing so can trap moisture—which is the opposite of what you want in your outdoor unit. That’s because sealing moisture inside the unit creates the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to flourish.

Mold and mildew not only have a bad smell, but they can also create health risks, especially for people with respiratory issues or allergies. Also, the trapped 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. A Covered Air Conditioner Can Host Animals

You and your family aren’t the only ones who prepare for winter. Animals that live around your home are also looking for a warm, cozy place to hide out for the wintry months. For many animals, a covered air conditioner is the perfect winter home.

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats commonly make homes inside covered air conditioners. Animals residing in a covered air conditioner can cause several problems. Mice can chew through wires, insulation and other parts, causing damage that may require pricey repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to create a warm and comfortable place to get out of the cold weather can impair airflow and ventilation, decreasing the efficiency of the appliance and potentially causing it to overheat. Additionally, animal droppings can result in unsanitary conditions and foul odors.

Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps deter animals, because an uncovered AC gives them 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 once the snow melts.

4. A Winter Cover for AC Units Restricts Airflow

Another reason it's better that you don't cover your air conditioning equipment in the winter is because a cover restricts airflow through the unit. Suitable airflow is essential for the AC system because it assists heat exchange and allows the unit to cool properly. When airflow is severely limited, the system has to work harder to reach the desired temperature, resulting in additional energy consumption and strain on the components.

In addition, if you run your air conditioner 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 shortage of correct airflow could cause the compressor to overheat, resulting in its failure or damage.  That’s why it is vital to ensure the outdoor unit has no barriers 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 several key maintenance activities you should prioritize to ensure maximum performance and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s smart to look at your outdoor AC unit regularly and remove any debris such as leaves, sticks and dirt to allow proper airflow. Second, examine 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 improves efficiency, but it also helps extend the unit's life span, lowers energy consumption and avoids costly repairs. Rather than using a cover, putting time and effort into routine air conditioning maintenance is a proactive approach that can greatly benefit your entire HVAC system in the long run.