As the sweltering summer sunshine starts to fade and the relief of fall starts to settle in, residents of Port Clinton start preparing their homes and yards for the the upcoming cold weather. 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 multiple reasons why you shouldn’t cover your AC unit in the winter. In addition to not being needed, covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment can sometimes cause problems.

Here, the specialists at Ohler & Holzhauer Inc. 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 supposed to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the wintertime. These systems are built with sturdy 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 shouldn’t cover your outdoor air conditioning equipment in the cold months is because doing so can trap moisture—which is the opposite of what you want in your outdoor unit. That’s because trapping moisture inside the unit generates the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to spread.

Mold and mildew not only have an undesirable odor, but they can also pose health risks, especially for individuals with respiratory issues or allergies. Plus, the unwanted moisture can corrode the internal components of the AC unit.

Instead of covering the unit, instead provide 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

Human beings aren’t the only ones who prepare for winter. Animals that live around your home are also hunting for a warm, cozy place to live for the winter months. For many animals, a covered air conditioner is an awesome winter refuge.

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats often make homes inside covered air conditioners. Animals living in a covered AC unit can cause several problems. Rodents can chew through wires, insulation and other connections, causing damage that may require costly repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to create a warm and comfortable bed can block airflow and ventilation, lowering the efficiency of the unit and potentially causing it to overheat. Moreover, animal excrement can result in unsanitary conditions and foul odors.

Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps discourage animals, because an uncovered AC provides 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 in the spring.

4. An AC Cover Restricts Airflow

Another reason you shouldn’t cover your air conditioning equipment in the winter is because a cover limits airflow through the unit. Proper airflow is crucial for the AC system because it assists heat exchange and permits the unit to cool efficiently. When airflow is reduced, 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 turn on your AC without realizing 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, resulting in its failure or damage.  That’s why it is essential to ensure the outdoor unit has no blockages and is not covered to maintain the best possible airflow.

5. AC Maintenance Is More Effective Than Covering Your Air Conditioner

The bottom line is, it’s a whole lot more effective to do a little maintenance for your cooling system than to cover your exterior AC unit.

There are several key maintenance activities you should prioritize to ensure maximum performance 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 they are free from dirt and dust buildup that would prevent effective heat exchange or airflow.

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