As the sweltering summer heat starts to fade and the refreshingly cool weather of fall starts to settle in, residents of Pacheco start preparing their homes and yards for the the upcoming cold weather. For many, that leads to the question of whether they need to cover their outdoor AC for the winter.

While it may seem like a good idea, the truth is there are many 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 even cause problems.

Here, the professionals at Clean Air HVAC share five reasons why covering your AC 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

Exterior AC units are built to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the winter season. These units are built with solid materials and components 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 not cover your air conditioner in the wintertime is because doing so can trap moisture—which is definitely not what you want in your outdoor unit. That’s because trapping moisture inside the unit generates 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 individuals with respiratory issues or allergies. Additionally, the excess moisture can corrode the internal components of the AC unit.

Rather than 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 Attract Animals

People aren’t the only ones who prepare for winter. Animals that live around your home are also hunting for a warm, cozy place to live for the cold months. For many creatures, a covered air conditioner is an ideal winter dwelling.

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats commonly make winter dens inside covered air conditioners. Animals residing in a covered air conditioner can cause many problems. Rodents can chew through wires, insulation and other parts, causing damage that may require costly repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to make themselves a warm and comfortable place to get out of the cold weather can obstruct airflow and ventilation, limiting the efficiency of the appliance and potentially causing it to overheat. In addition, animal waste can result in unsanitary conditions and foul odors.

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

4. A Winter Cover for AC Units Restricts Airflow

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

In addition, if you run your air conditioner without noticing that the outdoor unit is covered or because you simply forgot, it could result in a range of problems. One issue is that the shortage of appropriate airflow could cause the compressor to overheat, causing its failure or damage.  That’s why it is vital to ensure the outdoor unit is free from obstructions 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 lots more effective to do a little maintenance for your cooling system than to cover your exterior AC unit.

There are a number of key maintenance activities you should prioritize to ensure the best possible performance and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s wise to look at your outdoor AC unit regularly and remove any debris such as leaves, sticks and dirt to promote proper airflow. Second, check and clean the coils, fins and filters to make sure there isn't any dirt and dust buildup that would impede successful heat exchange or airflow.

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