As the scorching summer heat starts to fade and the refreshingly cool weather of fall starts to settle in, residents of Elk River start preparing their homes and yards for the winter. For many, that leads to the question of whether they need to cover their outside AC for the winter.

While it may seem like a good idea, the truth is there are multiple 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 Home Comfort Heating & Air 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. Snow won't Hurt Your AC

Outdoor AC units are built to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the wintertime. These systems are built with solid 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 crafted to protect the internal parts from moisture and debris.

2. Covering AC Systems can Encourage Mold

One of the reasons you shouldn’t cover your AC unit in the cold months 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 thrive.

Mold and mildew not only have an unpleasant smell, but they can also pose health risks, especially for people with respiratory issues or allergies. Plus, the trapped moisture can corrode the internal components of the AC unit.

Instead of 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. A Covered Air Conditioner Can Host Animals

Human beings aren’t the only ones who prepare for winter. Animals that live around your home are also searching for a warm, cozy place to hide out for the winter months. For many creatures, a covered air conditioner is an awesome winter home.

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats often make nests inside covered air conditioners. Animals living in a covered air conditioner can cause several problems. Rodents can chew through wires, insulation and other components, causing damage that may require pricey repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to make themselves a warm and comfortable bed can impair airflow and ventilation, reducing the efficiency of the AC and potentially causing it to overheat. In addition, animal excrement can result in unsanitary conditions and foul odors.

Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps deter wildlife, because an uncovered AC offers less shelter from the elements than a covered unit. That’s better for your AC—and leaves you with less mess to pick up and things to repair in the spring.

4. Covering Your Air Conditioner Restricts Airflow

Another reason it's better that you don't cover your air conditioning equipment in the winter is because a cover blocks airflow through the unit. Suitable airflow is vital for the AC system because it helps with heat exchange and allows the unit to cool effectively. When airflow is restricted, 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 conditioner without realizing 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 appropriate airflow could cause the compressor to overheat, leading to its failure or damage.  That’s why it is crucial to ensure the outdoor unit has no obstructions and is not covered to maintain maximum airflow.

5. AC Maintenance Is More Effective Than Covering Your Air Conditioner

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

There are numerous key maintenance tasks you should prioritize to ensure the best possible function and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s wise to inspect your outdoor AC unit regularly and clear any debris such as leaves, sticks 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 prevent effective heat exchange or airflow.

Routine air conditioning maintenance not only boosts 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 strategy that can significantly benefit your entire HVAC system in the long run.