As the scorching summer heat starts to fade and the relief of fall starts to settle in, residents of Seymour start preparing their homes and yards for the winter. 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, in reality there are many reasons why you shouldn’t cover your AC unit in the winter. Along with not being necessary, covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment can even cause problems.

Here, the professionals at Diedrick's Heating and Air Conditioning 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 supposed to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the winter season. These units are built with sturdy materials and parts that can handle the outdoor elements without damage. The coils and fins of the unit are engineered to resist corrosion, and the housing is manufactured to protect the internal parts from moisture and debris.

2. Covering Your Air Conditioner Can Cause Mold

One of the reasons you should avoid covering your AC unit in the winter is because doing so can trap moisture—which is not at all what you want in your outdoor unit. That’s because allowing moisture to collect inside the unit creates the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to spread.

Mold and mildew not only have an unpleasant smell, but they can also create health risks, especially for household residents with respiratory issues or allergies. Additionally, the trapped 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 clear 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 crash for the cold months. For many animals, a covered air conditioner is an ideal winter dwelling.

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats often make winter dens inside covered air conditioners. Animals living in a covered AC unit 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 make themselves a warm and comfortable place to get out of the cold weather can impair airflow and ventilation, reducing the efficiency of the unit and potentially causing it to overheat. Moreover, animal waste can result in unsanitary conditions and bad odors.

Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps deter animals, 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 throw away and things to repair once the snow melts.

4. A Winter Cover for AC Units Restricts Airflow

Another reason you shouldn’t cover your air conditioning equipment in the winter is because a cover blocks airflow through the unit. Proper airflow is vital for the AC system because it facilitates heat exchange and permits the unit to cool effectively. When airflow is reduced, the system has to work harder to maintain the desired temperature, leading to additional energy consumption and strain on the components.

In addition, if you use your air conditioner without realizing 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 appropriate airflow could cause the compressor to overheat, leading to its failure or damage.  That’s why it is necessary to ensure the outdoor unit is free from barriers and is not covered to maintain optimal airflow.

5. AC Maintenance Works Better Than Covering Your Air Conditioner

The bottom line is, it’s a lot more effective to do a little maintenance for your cooling system than to cover your exterior AC unit.

There are numerous key maintenance projects you should prioritize to ensure the best possible performance and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s a good idea to inspect your outdoor AC unit regularly and clear any debris such as leaves, small branches and dirt to maintain proper airflow. Second, inspect 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.

Regular 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 strategy that can greatly benefit your entire HVAC system in the long run.