As the hot summer sunshine starts to fade and the refreshingly cool weather of fall starts to settle in, residents of Columbus 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 air conditioning unit for the winter.

While it may seem like a good idea, the fact is there are multiple reasons why you shouldn’t cover your AC unit in the winter. Along with not being necessary, covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment can actually cause problems.

Here, the professionals at Classic Air 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. Snow won’t Hurt Your AC

Outdoor AC units are designed to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the wintertime. These systems are built with sturdy materials and components that can handle the outdoor elements without damage. The coils and fins of the unit are constructed to resist corrosion, and the housing is manufactured to protect the internal elements from moisture and debris.

2. Covering AC Systems can Encourage Mold

One of the reasons you should not cover your AC unit in the wintertime is because doing so can trap moisture—which is the opposite of what you want in your outdoor unit. That’s because allowing moisture to collect inside the unit generates the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to spread.

Mold and mildew not only have a bad odor, 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.

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 Attract Animals

Humans 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 wintry months. For many critters, a covered air conditioner is an ideal winter refuge.

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats commonly make homes inside covered air conditioners. Animals residing in a covered air conditioner can cause many problems. Rodents can chew through wires, insulation and other connections, causing damage that may require expensive repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to construct a warm and comfortable home can obstruct airflow and ventilation, decreasing the efficiency of the AC and potentially causing it to overheat. Additionally, animal droppings can result in unsanitary conditions and potent odors.

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

4. A Winter Cover for AC Units Restricts Airflow

Another reason not to cover your AC unit in the winter is because a cover limits airflow through the unit. Adequate airflow is vital for the AC system because it facilitates heat exchange and permits the unit to cool efficiently. When airflow is reduced, 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 conditioning without knowing 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 correct 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 maximum airflow.

5. AC Maintenance Works Better Than Covering Your Air Conditioner

The bottom line is, it’s much 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 activities you should prioritize to ensure the best possible operation and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s a good idea to check your outdoor AC unit regularly and get rid of any debris such as leaves, twigs and dirt to promote proper airflow. Second, examine and clean the coils, fins and filters to make sure they are free from dirt and dust buildup that would impede effective heat exchange or airflow.

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