As the hot summer heat starts to fade and the cooler temperatures of fall starts to settle in, residents of Sandpoint 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 AC for the winter.

While it may seem like a good idea, the fact 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 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. Your AC Unit Isn’t Damaged by Snow

Outside AC units are supposed to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the winter. These systems are built with sturdy materials and hardware 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 components 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 winter 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 generates the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to thrive.

Mold and mildew not only have an unpleasant smell, but they can also present health risks, especially for people with respiratory issues or allergies. Additionally, 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

People 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 commonly make homes inside covered air conditioners. Animals residing in a covered AC unit can cause numerous problems. Mice can chew through wires, insulation and other connections, causing damage that may require pricey 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, decreasing the efficiency of the AC and potentially causing it to overheat. Moreover, animal waste can result in unsanitary conditions and foul odors.

Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps dissuade creatures, 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 once the snow melts.

4. Covering Your Air Conditioner Restricts Airflow

Another reason not to cover your air conditioning equipment in the winter is because a cover blocks airflow through the unit. Suitable airflow is crucial for the AC system because it assists heat exchange and allows the unit to cool effectively. When airflow is constrained, the system has to work harder to maintain the desired temperature, causing additional energy consumption and strain on the components.

In addition, if you turn on your AC without realizing that the outdoor unit is covered or because you simply forgot, it could result in a range of problems. One issue is that the shortage of appropriate airflow could cause the compressor to overheat, resulting in its failure or damage.  That’s why it is essential to ensure the outdoor unit is free from blockages and is not covered to maintain optimal airflow.

5. AC Maintenance Works Better Than Covering Your Air Conditioner

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

There are numerous key maintenance projects you should prioritize to ensure optimal performance and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s a good idea to look at your outdoor AC unit regularly and remove any debris such as leaves, sticks and dirt to maintain proper airflow. Second, inspect and clean the coils, fins and filters to make sure they are free from 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 prevents costly repairs. Rather than using a cover, committing 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.