As the hot summer heat starts to fade and the cooler temperatures of fall starts to settle in, residents of Brookfield 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 conditioning unit for the winter.

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

Here, the professionals at Central Air LLC 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

Outdoor AC units are supposed to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the winter. These units are built with durable 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 components from moisture and debris.

2. Covering AC Systems can Encourage Mold

One of the reasons you shouldn’t cover your outdoor air conditioning equipment 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 odor, but they can also present health risks, especially for people with respiratory issues or allergies. Plus, the excess moisture can corrode the internal components of the AC unit.

Rather than 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. Covered AC Systems Can Attract Animals

Human beings 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 wintry months. For many creatures, a covered air conditioner is the perfect winter refuge.

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats frequently make nests inside covered air conditioners. Animals living in a covered air conditioning unit can cause many problems. Mice 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 impair airflow and ventilation, lowering the efficiency of the unit and potentially causing it to overheat. Moreover, animal droppings can result in unsanitary conditions and foul odors.

Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps discourage creatures, because an uncovered AC provides less shelter from cold weather than a covered unit. That’s better for your cooling system—and leaves you with less mess to pick up and things to repair once the snow melts.

4. An AC Cover Restricts Airflow

Another reason it's better that you don't cover your air conditioning equipment in the winter is because a cover restricts airflow through the unit. Suitable airflow is crucial for the AC system because it facilitates heat exchange and allows the unit to cool properly. When airflow is constrained, the system has to work harder to achieve the desired temperature, causing increased energy consumption and strain on the components.

In addition, if you turn on your air conditioner without realizing 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, resulting in its failure or damage.  That’s why it is essential 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 air conditioning unit than to cover your exterior 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 a good idea to examine your outdoor AC unit regularly and remove any debris such as leaves, small branches 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 impede successful heat exchange or airflow.

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