As the sweltering summer sunshine starts to fade and the refreshingly cool weather of fall starts to settle in, residents of Weatherford 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 AC for the winter.

While it may seem like a smart idea, in reality there are multiple reasons why you shouldn’t cover your AC unit in the winter. On top of not being necessary, covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment can sometimes cause problems.

Here, the specialists at Parker County Cooling & Heating 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 supposed to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the wintertime. These systems are built with sturdy materials and parts that can handle the outdoor elements without damage. The coils and fins of the unit are constructed to resist corrosion, and the housing is crafted 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 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 produces the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to spread.

Mold and mildew not only have an undesirable aroma, but they can also pose health risks, especially for household residents with respiratory issues or allergies. Also, the unwanted moisture can corrode the internal components of the AC unit.

Instead of covering the unit, instead make sure the unit has 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

You and your family aren’t the only ones who make plans for winter. Animals that live around your home are also searching for a warm, cozy place to crash for the cold months. For many creatures, a covered air conditioner is an ideal winter refuge.

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats commonly make winter dens inside covered air conditioners. Animals dwelling in a covered air conditioning unit 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 construct a warm and comfortable bed can obstruct airflow and ventilation, decreasing the efficiency of the AC and potentially causing it to overheat. In addition, animal waste can result in unsanitary conditions and bad odors.

Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps discourage animals, because an uncovered AC gives them less shelter from chilly temperatures 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. Covering Your Air Conditioner Restricts Airflow

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

In addition, if you run your air conditioner 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 appropriate airflow could cause the compressor to overheat, resulting in its failure or damage.  That’s why it is necessary to ensure the outdoor unit has no blockages and is not covered to maintain maximum airflow.

5. AC Maintenance Offers More Benefits 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 outside AC unit.

There are numerous key maintenance activities you should prioritize to ensure the best possible performance and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s wise to inspect your outdoor AC unit regularly and remove any debris such as leaves, twigs and dirt to allow proper airflow. Second, inspect 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, lowers energy consumption and avoids costly repairs. Rather than using a cover, committing time and effort into routine air conditioning maintenance is a proactive approach that can significantly benefit your entire HVAC system in the long run.