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

While it may seem like a good idea, in reality 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 actually cause problems.

Here, the experts at Phelps 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. Snow won't Hurt Your AC

Outside AC units are built to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the winter. These units 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 designed to protect the internal parts 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 sealing moisture inside the unit creates the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to spread.

Mold and mildew not only have an undesirable odor, but they can also pose health risks, especially for individuals 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 ensure proper drainage and keep the area around the unit clear of debris, allowing for efficient airflow and preventing moisture buildup.

3. Your Covered Air Conditioning Unit Can Attract 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 live for the winter months. For many creatures, a covered air conditioner is the perfect winter home.

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats frequently make homes inside covered air conditioners. Animals dwelling in a covered AC unit can cause many problems. Rats can chew through wires, insulation and other components, causing damage that may require expensive repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to construct a warm and comfortable place to get out of the cold weather can impair airflow and ventilation, lowering the efficiency of the AC and potentially causing it to overheat. In addition, animal droppings can result in unsanitary conditions and potent odors.

Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps dissuade animals, because an uncovered AC provides less shelter from the elements 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. An AC Cover Restricts Airflow

Another reason it's better that you don't cover your AC unit in the winter is because a cover restricts airflow through the unit. Suitable airflow is crucial for the AC system because it helps with heat exchange and enables the unit to cool properly. When airflow is constrained, the system has to work harder to maintain the desired temperature, resulting in greater energy consumption and strain on the components.

In addition, if you use your air conditioning without noticing that the exterior unit is covered or because you simply forgot, it could result in a range of problems. One issue is that the lack of correct airflow could cause the compressor to overheat, causing its failure or damage.  That’s why it is crucial to ensure the outdoor unit has no barriers 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 a lot more effective to do a little maintenance for your air conditioning unit than to cover your outside AC unit.

There are several key maintenance projects you should prioritize to ensure optimal function and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s a good idea to check 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 there isn't any 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, 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 strategy that can substantially benefit your entire HVAC system in the long run.