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

While it may seem like a smart idea, the reality is there are several 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 actually cause problems.

Here, the professionals at McFadden Heating & Cooling 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

Exterior AC units are designed to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the winter. 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 constructed to resist corrosion, and the housing is designed 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 AC unit in the wintertime is because doing so can trap moisture—which is definitely not 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 an undesirable smell, but they can also create health risks, especially for household residents with respiratory issues or allergies. Additionally, the unwanted moisture can corrode the internal components of the AC unit.

Rather than 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 Host Animals

Humans aren’t the only ones who prepare for winter. Animals that live around your home are also searching for a warm, cozy place to crash for the winter months. For many animals, a covered air conditioner is an awesome winter home.

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats commonly make nests inside covered air conditioners. Animals living in a covered air conditioning unit can cause several problems. Rats can chew through wires, insulation and other components, causing damage that may require expensive repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to construct a warm and comfortable home can obstruct airflow and ventilation, lowering the efficiency of the unit and potentially causing it to overheat. Additionally, animal droppings can result in unsanitary conditions and potent odors.

Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps discourage wildlife, because an uncovered AC offers less shelter from cold weather than a covered unit. That’s better for your AC—and leaves you with less mess to pick up and things to repair when winter is over.

4. An AC Cover Restricts Airflow

Another reason it's better that you don't cover your AC unit in the winter is because a cover restricts airflow through the unit. Proper airflow is vital for the AC system because it assists heat exchange and enables the unit to cool efficiently. When airflow is constrained, the system has to work harder to reach the desired temperature, leading to increased energy consumption and strain on the components.

In addition, if you turn on your air conditioning 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 absence of correct 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 free from barriers and is not covered to maintain optimal airflow.

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

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

There are a number of key maintenance tasks you should prioritize to ensure maximum operation and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s a good idea to check your outdoor AC unit regularly and clear any debris such as leaves, small branches and dirt to promote 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 effective heat exchange or airflow.

Routine air conditioning maintenance not only boosts efficiency, but it also helps extend the unit's life span, decreases energy consumption and prevents costly repairs. Rather than using a cover, investing time and effort into routine air conditioning maintenance is a proactive plan of action that can greatly benefit your entire HVAC system in the long run.