As the hot summer heat starts to fade and the relief of fall starts to settle in, residents of Marshalltown start preparing their homes and yards for the wintertime. 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 fact is there are a number of 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 actually cause problems.

Here, the experts at B & G HVAC 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 can Handle Snow

Exterior AC units are built to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the winter. These units are built with solid materials and components that can handle the outdoor elements without damage. The coils and fins of the unit are constructed to resist corrosion, and the housing is crafted to protect the internal elements from moisture and debris.

2. Covering Your Air Conditioner Can Cause Mold

One of the reasons you shouldn’t cover your air conditioner in the wintertime 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 aroma, but they can also pose health risks, especially for people with respiratory issues or allergies. Also, the unwanted moisture can corrode the internal components of the AC unit.

Rather than covering the unit, instead ensure proper drainage and keep the area around the unit clear of debris, allowing for efficient airflow and preventing moisture buildup.

3. Your Covered Air Conditioning Unit Can Attract 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 wintry months. For many animals, a covered air conditioner is an awesome winter home.

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats commonly make nests inside covered air conditioners. Animals living in a covered air conditioning unit can cause many problems. Rats can chew through wires, insulation and other parts, causing damage that may require expensive repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to make themselves a warm and comfortable home can block airflow and ventilation, decreasing the efficiency of the AC and potentially causing it to overheat. In addition, animal excrement 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 air conditioner—and leaves you with less mess to throw away and things to repair in the spring.

4. A Winter Cover for AC Units Restricts Airflow

Another reason not to cover your air conditioner in the winter is because a cover blocks airflow through the unit. Adequate airflow is essential for the AC system because it assists heat exchange and permits the unit to cool efficiently. When airflow is restricted, the system has to work harder to achieve the desired temperature, causing increased energy consumption and strain on the components.

In addition, if you use your air conditioner 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 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 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 activities you should prioritize to ensure maximum function and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s smart to inspect your outdoor AC unit regularly and clear any debris such as leaves, sticks and dirt to allow proper airflow. Second, inspect and clean the coils, fins and filters to make sure there isn't any dirt and dust buildup that would prevent efficient 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 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 greatly benefit your entire HVAC system in the long run.