As the scorching summer heat starts to fade and the relief of fall starts to settle in, residents of Litchfield Park start preparing their homes and yards for the winter. For many, that leads to the question of whether they need to cover their outdoor air conditioner for the winter.

While it may seem like a great idea, the truth is there are many 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 sometimes cause problems.

Here, the professionals at Cooler Tymes LLC 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 Unit Isn’t Damaged by Snow

Outside AC units are supposed to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the winter. 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 constructed to resist corrosion, and the housing is manufactured to protect the internal elements from moisture and debris.

2. Covering Your Air Conditioner Can Cause Mold

One of the reasons you should not cover your outdoor air conditioning equipment in the winter 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 an undesirable aroma, but they can also create health risks, especially for individuals with respiratory issues or allergies. Also, the excess 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 free of debris, allowing for efficient airflow and preventing moisture buildup.

3. A Covered Air Conditioner Can Attract Animals

Humans aren’t the only ones who prepare for winter. Animals that live around your home are also looking for a warm, cozy place to crash for the winter months. For many creatures, a covered air conditioner is the perfect winter refuge.

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats commonly make homes inside covered air conditioners. Animals dwelling in a covered air conditioner can cause several problems. Rats can chew through wires, insulation and other connections, causing damage that may require pricey repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to create 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. Additionally, animal waste can result in unsanitary conditions and potent odors.

Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps dissuade creatures, 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 clean up and things to repair in the spring.

4. Covering Your Air Conditioner Restricts Airflow

Another reason you shouldn't cover your air conditioning equipment in the winter is because a cover blocks airflow through the unit. Proper airflow is vital for the AC system because it assists heat exchange and permits the unit to cool efficiently. When airflow is severely limited, the system has to work harder to achieve the desired temperature, leading to additional energy consumption and strain on the components.

In addition, if you turn on your air conditioner without noticing that the exterior unit is covered or because you simply forgot, it could result in a range of problems. One issue is that the shortage of proper airflow could cause the compressor to overheat, resulting in its failure or damage.  That’s why it is crucial to ensure the outdoor unit is always cleared of any obstructions and is not covered to maintain optimal airflow.

5. AC Maintenance Works Better Than Covering Your Air Conditioner

The bottom line is, it's a lot more effective to do a little maintenance for your air conditioner than to cover your outside AC unit.

There are a number of key maintenance tasks you should prioritize to ensure optimal operation and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s smart to examine your outdoor AC unit regularly and clear any debris such as leaves, twigs and dirt to maintain proper airflow. Second, check and clean the coils, fins and filters to make sure they are free from dirt and dust buildup that would hinder successful heat exchange or airflow.

Scheduled air conditioning maintenance not only enhances efficiency, but it also helps extend the unit's life span, reduces energy consumption and protects against 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.