As the sweltering summer sunshine starts to fade and the refreshingly cool weather of fall starts to settle in, residents of Tucker start preparing their homes and yards for the winter. For many, that leads to the question of whether they need to cover their exterior air conditioning unit for the winter.

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

Here, the experts at ACS Heating and Air Conditioning share five reasons why covering your air conditioner 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

Exterior AC units are built to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the winter season. These units are built with sturdy materials and hardware 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 should not 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 trapping moisture inside the unit generates the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to flourish.

Mold and mildew not only have a bad odor, but they can also present health risks, especially for individuals with respiratory issues or allergies. Additionally, the trapped moisture can corrode the internal components of the AC unit.

Rather than 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

You and your family aren’t the only ones who make plans for winter. Animals that live around your home are also looking for a warm, cozy place to live for the winter months. For many critters, a covered air conditioner is the perfect winter refuge.

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats commonly make winter dens inside covered air conditioners. Animals dwelling in a covered air conditioning unit can cause numerous problems. Rats can chew through wires, insulation and other components, causing damage that may require expensive repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to make themselves a warm and comfortable place to get out of the cold weather can impair airflow and ventilation, decreasing the efficiency of the unit and potentially causing it to overheat. In addition, animal excrement can result in unsanitary conditions and potent odors.

Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps deter wildlife, because an uncovered AC offers 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 when winter is over.

4. A Winter Cover for AC Units Restricts Airflow

Another reason it's better that you don't cover your air conditioner in the winter is because a cover restricts airflow through the unit. Proper airflow is crucial for the AC system because it assists heat exchange and allows the unit to cool efficiently. When airflow is constrained, the system has to work harder to reach the desired temperature, resulting in greater energy consumption and strain on the components.

In addition, if you turn on your air conditioner 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 lack of proper airflow could cause the compressor to overheat, causing its failure or damage.  That’s why it is crucial to ensure the outdoor unit has no barriers and is not covered to maintain optimal 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 conditioner than to cover your outdoor AC unit.

There are numerous key maintenance projects you should prioritize to ensure the best possible performance and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s wise to check your outdoor AC unit regularly and get rid of 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 prevent efficient heat exchange or airflow.

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