As the sweltering summer sunshine starts to fade and the relief of fall starts to settle in, residents of Port Orchard 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 reality 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 sometimes cause problems.

Here, the specialists at Air Masters 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

Exterior AC units are supposed to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the winter. These machines are built with durable materials and hardware 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 components from moisture and debris.

2. Covering AC Systems can Encourage Mold

One of the reasons you shouldn’t 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 trapping moisture inside the unit generates the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to flourish.

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

As an alternative to covering the unit, instead make sure the unit has 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

Humans aren’t the only ones who prepare for winter. Animals that live around your home are also searching for a warm, cozy place to hide out for the winter 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 dwelling in a covered air conditioning unit can cause several problems. Mice can chew through wires, insulation and other components, causing damage that may require pricey repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to create a warm and comfortable place to get out of the cold weather can block airflow and ventilation, lowering the efficiency of the AC and potentially causing it to overheat. Moreover, animal droppings can result in unsanitary conditions and foul odors.

Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps dissuade wildlife, 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 clean up and things to repair in the spring.

4. Covering Your Air Conditioner Restricts Airflow

Another reason it’s better that you don’t cover your air conditioner in the winter is because a cover limits airflow through the unit. Proper airflow is essential for the AC system because it helps with heat exchange and permits the unit to cool efficiently. When airflow is constrained, the system has to work harder to achieve the desired temperature, resulting in greater energy consumption and strain on the components.

In addition, if you use your air conditioning 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 lack of proper 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 always cleared of any barriers and is not covered to maintain maximum airflow.

5. AC Maintenance Works Better Than Covering Your Air Conditioner

The bottom line is, it’s much 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 optimal operation and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s smart to look at your outdoor AC unit regularly and clear any debris such as leaves, small branches and dirt to allow proper airflow. Second, check and clean the coils, fins and filters to make sure you don’t see any dirt and dust buildup that would prevent successful heat exchange or airflow.

Routine air conditioning maintenance not only improves efficiency, but it also helps extend the unit’s life span, reduces energy consumption and prevents costly repairs. Rather than using a cover, investing 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.