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

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

Here, the professionals at H & H Service Company 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. Your AC can Handle Snow

Outdoor AC units are built to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the winter. These systems are built with sturdy materials and hardware 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 designed to protect the internal parts from moisture and debris.

2. Covering AC Systems can Encourage 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 allowing moisture to collect inside the unit generates the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to spread.

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

As an alternative to 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

Humans aren’t the only ones who get ready for winter. Animals that live around your home are also hunting for a warm, cozy place to live for the cold months. For many critters, a covered air conditioner is an awesome winter refuge.

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats commonly make nests inside covered air conditioners. Animals living in a covered air conditioning unit can cause several problems. Rats 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 home can obstruct airflow and ventilation, decreasing the efficiency of the appliance and potentially causing it to overheat. In addition, animal droppings can result in unsanitary conditions and bad odors.

Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps deter creatures, because an uncovered AC gives them less shelter from the elements 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. A Winter Cover for AC Units Restricts Airflow

Another reason not to cover your air conditioning equipment in the winter is because a cover restricts airflow through the unit. Proper airflow is crucial for the AC system because it facilitates heat exchange and permits the unit to cool properly. When airflow is constrained, the system has to work harder to reach the desired temperature, causing additional energy consumption and strain on the components.

In addition, if you turn on your AC without noticing 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 crucial to ensure the outdoor unit has no 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 lots more effective to do a little maintenance for your cooling system than to cover your outdoor 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 check your outdoor AC unit regularly and get rid of any debris such as leaves, sticks and dirt to maintain proper airflow. Second, check and clean the coils, fins and filters to make sure there isn't any dirt and dust buildup that would hinder effective heat exchange or airflow.

Scheduled air conditioning maintenance not only boosts efficiency, but it also helps extend the unit's life span, lowers energy consumption and protects against costly repairs. Rather than using a cover, putting time and effort into routine air conditioning maintenance is a proactive strategy that can significantly benefit your entire HVAC system in the long run.