As the scorching summer sunshine starts to fade and the refreshingly cool weather of fall starts to settle in, residents of Mount Hope start preparing their homes and yards for the winter. 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, in reality there are multiple 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 even cause problems.

Here, the professionals at Appalachian Heating 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. Your AC Unit Isn’t Damaged by Snow

Outside AC units are built to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the wintertime. These units are built with sturdy materials and hardware 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 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 winter is because doing so can trap moisture—which is the opposite of what you want in your outdoor unit. That’s because trapping moisture inside the unit creates the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to thrive.

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

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

3. Covered AC Systems Can Host Animals

Humans 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 ideal winter dwelling.

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats frequently make nests inside covered air conditioners. Animals living in a covered air conditioning unit can cause numerous 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 nest can obstruct airflow and ventilation, decreasing the efficiency of the unit and potentially causing it to overheat. Additionally, animal waste can result in unsanitary conditions and foul odors.

Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps dissuade creatures, because an uncovered AC offers less shelter from chilly temperatures than a covered unit. That’s better for your air conditioner—and leaves you with less mess to pick up and things to repair in the spring.

4. Covering Your Air Conditioner Restricts Airflow

Another reason not to cover your air conditioning equipment in the winter is because a cover blocks airflow through the unit. Suitable airflow is essential for the AC system because it facilitates heat exchange and allows the unit to cool properly. When airflow is severely limited, the system has to work harder to achieve the desired temperature, causing increased energy consumption and strain on the components.

In addition, if you turn on your air conditioner without realizing that the outdoor 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, causing its failure or damage.  That’s why it is crucial to ensure the outdoor unit is always cleared of any blockages and is not covered to maintain optimal airflow.

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

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

There are numerous key maintenance tasks you should prioritize to ensure the best possible operation and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s smart to inspect your outdoor AC unit regularly and get rid of any debris such as leaves, sticks and dirt to allow proper airflow. Second, inspect and clean the coils, fins and filters to make sure they are free from dirt and dust buildup that would impede efficient heat exchange or airflow.

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