As the hot summer sun starts to fade and the cooler temperatures of fall starts to settle in, residents of Savage 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 outdoor AC for the winter.

While it may seem like a good idea, the truth is there are multiple reasons why you shouldn’t cover your AC unit in the winter. In addition to not being something you need to do, covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment can even cause problems.

Here, the professionals at Gopher 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. Snow won't Hurt Your AC

Outside AC units are built to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the winter. 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 specially developed to resist corrosion, and the housing is designed to protect the internal parts from moisture and debris.

2. Covered AC Systems may Encourage Mold Growth

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 sealing moisture inside the unit produces the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to flourish.

Mold and mildew not only have an undesirable smell, but they can also pose health risks, especially for people with respiratory issues or allergies. Plus, the unwanted 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 cleared 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 make plans for winter. Animals that live around your home are also hunting for a warm, cozy place to hide out for the winter months. For many animals, a covered air conditioner is an ideal winter dwelling.

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats commonly make nests inside covered air conditioners. Animals residing in a covered AC unit can cause many problems. Rats can chew through wires, insulation and other components, causing damage that may require pricey repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to construct a warm and comfortable bed can impair airflow and ventilation, limiting the efficiency of the appliance and potentially causing it to overheat. Additionally, animal droppings can result in unsanitary conditions and foul odors.

Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps deter animals, because an uncovered AC gives them 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. Covering Your Air Conditioner Restricts Airflow

Another reason it's better that you don't cover your air conditioner in the winter is because a cover blocks airflow through the unit. Suitable airflow is essential for the AC system because it facilitates heat exchange and allows the unit to cool effectively. When airflow is restricted, the system has to work harder to reach the desired temperature, leading to increased energy consumption and strain on the components.

In addition, if you use your air conditioner without knowing that the exterior unit is covered or because you simply forgot, it could result in a range of problems. One issue is that the absence of proper airflow could cause the compressor to overheat, leading to its failure or damage.  That’s why it is necessary to ensure the outdoor unit has no obstructions and is not covered to maintain the best possible airflow.

5. AC Maintenance Offers More Benefits 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 exterior AC unit.

There are several key maintenance tasks you should prioritize to ensure optimal operation and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s a good idea to look at your outdoor AC unit regularly and clear any debris such as leaves, small branches and dirt to maintain proper airflow. Second, examine and clean the coils, fins and filters to make sure there isn't any dirt and dust buildup that would prevent successful heat exchange or airflow.

Routine 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 approach that can significantly benefit your entire HVAC system in the long run.