As the scorching summer sunshine starts to fade and the relief of fall starts to settle in, residents of Sandpoint start preparing their homes and yards for the winter. For many, that leads to the question of whether they ought to cover their outside air conditioning unit for the winter.

While it may seem like a smart idea, the truth is there are many reasons why you shouldn’t cover your AC unit in the winter. Along with not being necessary, covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment can actually cause problems.

Here, the specialists at Age Heating & Cooling share five reasons why covering your AC doesn’t need to be on your fall to-do list and what you should do instead.

1. Snow won't Hurt Your AC

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

2. Covering AC Systems can Encourage Mold

One of the reasons you shouldn’t cover your AC unit in the wintertime is because doing so can trap moisture—which is definitely not what you want in your outdoor unit. That’s because trapping moisture inside the unit produces the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to spread.

Mold and mildew not only have an unpleasant odor, but they can also present health risks, especially for individuals with respiratory issues or allergies. Also, 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. Covered AC Systems Can Host 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 live for the winter months. For many creatures, a covered air conditioner is the perfect winter home.

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats often make winter dens inside covered air conditioners. Animals living in a covered AC unit can cause numerous problems. Mice can chew through wires, insulation and other connections, causing damage that may require expensive repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to construct a warm and comfortable home can impair airflow and ventilation, decreasing the efficiency of the appliance and potentially causing it to overheat. Additionally, animal waste can result in unsanitary conditions and potent 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 clean up and things to repair once the snow melts.

4. Covering Your Air Conditioner Restricts Airflow

Another reason you shouldn't cover your AC unit in the winter is because a cover blocks airflow through the unit. Adequate airflow is essential for the AC system because it facilitates heat exchange and allows the unit to cool efficiently. When airflow is reduced, the system has to work harder to achieve the desired temperature, resulting in additional 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 absence of correct 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 free from 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 lots more effective to do a little maintenance for your air conditioner than to cover your outdoor AC unit.

There are a number of key maintenance activities you should prioritize to ensure the best possible performance and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s smart to inspect your outdoor AC unit regularly and get rid of any debris such as leaves, twigs and dirt to allow 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 successful heat exchange or airflow.

Regular air conditioning maintenance not only boosts efficiency, but it also helps extend the unit's life span, reduces energy consumption and protects against costly repairs. Rather than using a cover, putting time and effort into routine air conditioning maintenance is a proactive plan of action that can substantially benefit your entire HVAC system in the long run.