As the sweltering summer sun starts to fade and the cooler temperatures of fall starts to settle in, residents of Troy start preparing their homes and yards for the wintertime. For many, that leads to the question of whether they need to cover their exterior air conditioning unit for the winter.

While it may seem like a smart idea, the fact is there are several reasons why you shouldn’t cover your AC unit in the winter. On top of not being something you need to do, covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment can even cause problems.

Here, the experts at Edington Heating & Cooling Inc 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 Unit Isn’t Damaged by Snow

Outside AC units are built to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the winter. These units 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 Your Air Conditioner Can Cause Mold

One of the reasons you should not cover your AC unit in the winter 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 undesirable smell, but they can also create health risks, especially for household residents with respiratory issues or allergies. Additionally, the trapped moisture can corrode the internal components of the AC unit.

Rather than 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. 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 hide out for the cold months. For many animals, a covered air conditioner is an ideal winter dwelling.

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats commonly make nests inside covered air conditioners. Animals dwelling in a covered air conditioner can cause several problems. Rats can chew through wires, insulation and other components, causing damage that may require costly repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to make themselves a warm and comfortable place to get out of the cold weather can block airflow and ventilation, lowering the efficiency of the appliance and potentially causing it to overheat. In addition, animal excrement can result in unsanitary conditions and foul odors.

Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps discourage wildlife, because an uncovered AC gives them less shelter from cold weather than a covered unit. That’s better for your AC—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 you shouldn't cover your air conditioning equipment in the winter is because a cover blocks airflow through the unit. Suitable airflow is essential for the AC system because it assists heat exchange and enables the unit to cool effectively. When airflow is restricted, the system has to work harder to maintain the desired temperature, leading to additional energy consumption and strain on the components.

In addition, if you run your AC without knowing 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, causing its failure or damage.  That’s why it is crucial to ensure the outdoor unit is always cleared of any obstructions and is not covered to maintain maximum airflow.

5. AC Maintenance Offers More Benefits Than Covering Your Air Conditioner

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

There are a number of key maintenance activities you should prioritize to ensure optimal function and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s a good idea to inspect your outdoor AC unit regularly and get rid of any debris such as leaves, sticks and dirt to allow proper airflow. Second, inspect and clean the coils, fins and filters to make sure they are free from dirt and dust buildup that would hinder efficient heat exchange or airflow.

Regular air conditioning maintenance not only boosts efficiency, but it also helps extend the unit's life span, decreases 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.