As the sweltering summer heat starts to fade and the cooler temperatures of fall starts to settle in, residents of Wilkes Barre and Scranton start preparing their homes and yards for the wintertime. For many, that leads to the question of whether they ought to cover their outdoor air conditioning unit for the winter.

While it may seem like a good idea, the truth is there are a number of 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 GLR Mechanical 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

Outdoor AC units are designed to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the winter season. 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 engineered to resist corrosion, and the housing is crafted 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 outdoor air conditioning equipment in the wintertime is because doing so can trap moisture—which is definitely not what you want in your outdoor unit. That’s because sealing moisture inside the unit generates the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to spread.

Mold and mildew not only have an unpleasant smell, but they can also pose 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 ensure proper drainage and keep the area around the unit cleared of debris, allowing for efficient airflow and preventing moisture buildup.

3. Your Covered Air Conditioning Unit Can Host Animals

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

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

Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps discourage creatures, because an uncovered AC gives them less shelter from cold weather than a covered unit. That’s better for your air conditioner—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 AC unit in the winter is because a cover restricts airflow through the unit. Adequate airflow is essential for the AC system because it helps with heat exchange and allows the unit to cool properly. When airflow is restricted, the system has to work harder to reach the desired temperature, leading to greater energy consumption and strain on the components.

In addition, if you use your air conditioning 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 proper airflow could cause the compressor to overheat, leading to its failure or damage.  That’s why it is crucial to ensure the outdoor unit is free from blockages 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 a lot more effective to do a little maintenance for your cooling system than to cover your outdoor AC unit.

There are several key maintenance tasks you should prioritize to ensure optimal performance and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s wise to look at your outdoor AC unit regularly and remove any debris such as leaves, sticks and dirt to allow proper airflow. Second, check and clean the coils, fins and filters to make sure there isn’t any dirt and dust buildup that would impede successful heat exchange or airflow.

Routine air conditioning maintenance not only boosts efficiency, but it also helps extend the unit’s life span, decreases 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.