As the scorching summer heat starts to fade and the relief of fall starts to settle in, residents of Thedford start preparing their homes and yards for the winter. 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 fact is there are a number of reasons why you shouldn’t cover your AC unit in the winter. Along with not being something you need to do, covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment can sometimes cause problems.

Here, the specialists at Taylor's Heating & Air Conditioning 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. Your AC can Handle Snow

Outside AC units are designed to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the winter season. These systems are built with sturdy materials and components 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 AC Systems can Encourage Mold

One of the reasons you shouldn’t cover your air conditioner in the cold months is because doing so can trap moisture—which is not at all what you want in your outdoor unit. That’s because allowing moisture to collect inside the unit creates 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 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 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 Host Animals

People aren’t the only ones who get ready for winter. Animals that live around your home are also hunting for a warm, cozy place to crash for the winter months. For many critters, a covered air conditioner is an awesome winter refuge.

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats frequently make homes inside covered air conditioners. Animals dwelling in a covered air conditioner can cause several problems. Rodents can chew through wires, insulation and other components, causing damage that may require expensive repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to make themselves a warm and comfortable bed can block airflow and ventilation, decreasing the efficiency of the unit and potentially causing it to overheat. In addition, animal waste can result in unsanitary conditions and potent 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 air conditioner—and leaves you with less mess to throw away and things to repair when winter is over.

4. Covering Your Air Conditioner Restricts Airflow

Another reason you shouldn't cover your AC unit in the winter is because a cover limits airflow through the unit. Suitable airflow is vital for the AC system because it helps with heat exchange and permits the unit to cool properly. When airflow is restricted, 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 noticing that the outdoor unit is covered or because you simply forgot, it could result in a range of problems. One issue is that the absence of proper airflow could cause the compressor to overheat, leading to its failure or damage.  That’s why it is vital to ensure the outdoor unit is free from barriers and is not covered to maintain optimal airflow.

5. AC Maintenance Is More Effective 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 outside AC unit.

There are numerous key maintenance tasks you should prioritize to ensure optimal function and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s wise 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 impede successful heat exchange or airflow.

Scheduled air conditioning maintenance not only boosts efficiency, but it also helps extend the unit's life span, lowers energy consumption and avoids 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.