As the scorching summer sun starts to fade and the relief of fall starts to settle in, residents of Laurel 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 outside air conditioner for the winter.

While it may seem like a great idea, in reality there are many reasons why you shouldn’t cover your AC unit in the winter. In addition to not being something you need to do, covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment can actually cause problems.

Here, the professionals at H&C Heating and 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. Your AC Unit Isn’t Damaged by Snow

Outside AC units are built to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the winter season. These machines are built with durable 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 crafted to protect the internal parts 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 not at all what you want in your outdoor unit. That’s because sealing moisture inside the unit generates the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to flourish.

Mold and mildew not only have a bad odor, but they can also pose health risks, especially for individuals 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 ensure 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 Attract 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 wintry months. For many critters, a covered air conditioner is an awesome winter refuge.

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats often make winter dens inside covered air conditioners. Animals living in a covered air conditioner can cause several problems. Mice 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 block airflow and ventilation, lowering the efficiency of the appliance and potentially causing it to overheat. In addition, animal waste can result in unsanitary conditions and bad odors.

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

4. An AC Cover Restricts Airflow

Another reason you shouldn'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 permits the unit to cool properly. When airflow is severely limited, the system has to work harder to achieve the desired temperature, leading to greater energy consumption and strain on the components.

In addition, if you use 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 lack of correct airflow could cause the compressor to overheat, leading to its failure or damage.  That’s why it is vital to ensure the outdoor unit has no blockages 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 lot more effective to do a little maintenance for your air conditioning unit than to cover your outside AC unit.

There are a number of key maintenance projects you should prioritize to ensure maximum function and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s a good idea to examine your outdoor AC unit regularly and remove 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 you don't see any dirt and dust buildup that would impede efficient heat exchange or airflow.

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