As the sweltering 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 the upcoming cold weather. For many, that leads to the question of whether they need to cover their outside AC for the winter.

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

Here, the professionals at Cooler Tymes LLC 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 designed to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the winter. These units are built with durable materials and parts 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 manufactured to protect the internal elements from moisture and debris.

2. Covered AC Systems may Encourage Mold Growth

One of the reasons you should avoid covering 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 produces the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to thrive.

Mold and mildew not only have a bad odor, but they can also present health risks, especially for household residents with respiratory issues or allergies. Plus, 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 cleared 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 searching for a warm, cozy place to hide out for the cold months. For many animals, a covered air conditioner is an ideal winter refuge.

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats frequently make winter dens inside covered air conditioners. Animals residing in a covered air conditioning unit can cause numerous problems. Rodents can chew through wires, insulation and other connections, 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, lowering the efficiency of the AC and potentially causing it to overheat. In addition, animal waste can result in unsanitary conditions and potent odors.

Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps discourage animals, because an uncovered AC offers less shelter from chilly temperatures than a covered unit. That’s better for your AC—and leaves you with less mess to throw away and things to repair when winter is over.

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 limits airflow through the unit. Adequate airflow is crucial for the AC system because it helps with heat exchange and permits the unit to cool effectively. When airflow is restricted, the system has to work harder to maintain the desired temperature, leading to increased energy consumption and strain on the components.

In addition, if you turn on your AC without knowing that the outside unit is covered or because you simply forgot, it could result in a range of problems. One issue is that the shortage 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 blockages and is not covered to maintain the best possible airflow.

5. AC Maintenance Works Better Than Covering Your Air Conditioner

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

There are a number of key maintenance projects you should prioritize to ensure the best possible operation and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s smart to examine your outdoor AC unit regularly and remove any debris such as leaves, twigs and dirt to maintain proper airflow. Second, examine and clean the coils, fins and filters to make sure you don't see any dirt and dust buildup that would prevent successful heat exchange or airflow.

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