As the sweltering summer sunshine starts to fade and the cooler temperatures of fall starts to settle in, residents of Holbrook 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 conditioner for the winter.

While it may seem like a smart idea, the truth is there are multiple 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 Fal-Ken Heating & Cooling Corporation 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 designed to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the wintertime. These machines are built with durable materials and components 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 elements from moisture and debris.

2. Covering Your Air Conditioner Can Cause Mold

One of the reasons you should avoid covering your air conditioner in the wintertime 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 thrive.

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

As an alternative to covering the unit, instead provide proper drainage and keep the area around the unit cleared of debris, allowing for efficient airflow and preventing moisture buildup.

3. Covered AC Systems Can Host Animals

Human beings 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 cold months. For many critters, a covered air conditioner is an awesome winter dwelling.

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats frequently make nests inside covered air conditioners. Animals living in a covered air conditioner can cause many problems. Rats can chew through wires, insulation and other connections, causing damage that may require expensive repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to construct a warm and comfortable place to get out of the cold weather can obstruct airflow and ventilation, lowering 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 wildlife, because an uncovered AC offers less shelter from the elements than a covered unit. That’s better for your cooling system—and leaves you with less mess to pick up and things to repair when winter is over.

4. A Winter Cover for AC Units Restricts Airflow

Another reason not to cover your AC unit in the winter is because a cover limits airflow through the unit. Adequate airflow is crucial for the AC system because it facilitates heat exchange and enables the unit to cool properly. When airflow is reduced, the system has to work harder to reach the desired temperature, resulting in increased energy consumption and strain on the components.

In addition, if you use your air conditioning without noticing that the exterior 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, 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 maximum airflow.

5. AC Maintenance Works Better 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 exterior AC unit.

There are a number of key maintenance activities you should prioritize to ensure the best possible function and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s smart to check your outdoor AC unit regularly and pull out any debris such as leaves, twigs and dirt to promote proper airflow. Second, check 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 enhances 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 strategy that can significantly benefit your entire HVAC system in the long run.