As the hot summer heat starts to fade and the cooler temperatures of fall starts to settle in, residents of Covington start preparing their homes and yards for the the upcoming cold weather. For many, that leads to the question of whether they should cover their outside air conditioner for the winter.

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

Here, the professionals at Covington Air Systems 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

Outside AC units are designed to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the winter season. These machines are built with sturdy materials and parts that can handle the outdoor elements without damage. The coils and fins of the unit are engineered to resist corrosion, and the housing is designed to protect the internal parts from moisture and debris.

2. Covering Your Air Conditioner Can Cause Mold

One of the reasons you shouldn’t cover your air conditioner 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 produces the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to flourish.

Mold and mildew not only have an undesirable aroma, but they can also create health risks, especially for people 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 clear of debris, allowing for efficient airflow and preventing moisture buildup.

3. A Covered Air Conditioner Can Host Animals

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

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats often make homes inside covered air conditioners. Animals dwelling in a covered air conditioning unit can cause many problems. Mice can chew through wires, insulation and other components, causing damage that may require expensive repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to construct a warm and comfortable place to get out of the cold weather can obstruct airflow and ventilation, decreasing the efficiency of the AC and potentially causing it to overheat. Additionally, animal excrement can result in unsanitary conditions and bad odors.

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

4. A Winter Cover for AC Units Restricts Airflow

Another reason you shouldn't cover your air conditioner in the winter is because a cover blocks airflow through the unit. Proper airflow is essential for the AC system because it facilitates heat exchange and allows the unit to cool efficiently. When airflow is reduced, the system has to work harder to maintain the desired temperature, resulting in increased energy consumption and strain on the components.

In addition, if you run your air conditioner without realizing 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, causing its failure or damage.  That’s why it is essential to ensure the outdoor unit is always cleared of any 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 air conditioning unit than to cover your exterior AC unit.

There are a number of key maintenance tasks you should prioritize to ensure maximum performance and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s wise to examine your outdoor AC unit regularly and pull out any debris such as leaves, twigs and dirt to maintain proper airflow. Second, check and clean the coils, fins and filters to make sure you don't see any dirt and dust buildup that would hinder efficient heat exchange or airflow.

Scheduled air conditioning maintenance not only boosts efficiency, but it also helps extend the unit's life span, reduces energy consumption and avoids costly repairs. Rather than using a cover, committing 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.