As the scorching summer sunshine starts to fade and the relief of fall starts to settle in, residents of Ames start preparing their homes and yards for the wintertime. For many, that leads to the question of whether they should cover their outside AC for the winter.

While it may seem like a good idea, the truth is there are multiple reasons why you shouldn’t cover your AC unit in the winter. On top of not being needed, covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment can actually cause problems.

Here, the specialists at Haselhoff Air Solutions share five reasons why covering your air conditioning equipment 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 supposed to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the wintertime. These machines are built with sturdy materials and components 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 elements from moisture and debris.

2. Covered AC Systems may Encourage Mold Growth

One of the reasons you should avoid covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment in the winter is because doing so can trap moisture—which is the opposite of what you want in your outdoor unit. That’s because sealing moisture inside the unit produces the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to flourish.

Mold and mildew not only have an unpleasant odor, 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 ensure proper drainage and keep the area around the unit free 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 searching for a warm, cozy place to crash for the winter months. For many creatures, a covered air conditioner is an awesome winter dwelling.

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats commonly make homes inside covered air conditioners. Animals dwelling in a covered air conditioning unit can cause numerous problems. Rats can chew through wires, insulation and other parts, causing damage that may require costly repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to make themselves a warm and comfortable home can impair 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 discourage wildlife, because an uncovered AC offers less shelter from the elements than a covered unit. That’s better for your AC—and leaves you with less mess to pick up and things to repair once the snow melts.

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 restricts airflow through the unit. Proper airflow is crucial for the AC system because it assists heat exchange and permits the unit to cool properly. When airflow is restricted, the system has to work harder to achieve the desired temperature, leading to additional energy consumption and strain on the components.

In addition, if you turn on your air conditioner 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 appropriate airflow could cause the compressor to overheat, causing its failure or damage.  That’s why it is vital to ensure the outdoor unit has no 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 a lot more effective to do a little maintenance for your cooling system than to cover your exterior AC unit.

There are numerous key maintenance activities you should prioritize to ensure maximum function and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s a good idea to check your outdoor AC unit regularly and pull out 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.

Routine air conditioning maintenance not only enhances efficiency, but it also helps extend the unit’s life span, lowers energy consumption and prevents costly repairs. Rather than using a cover, committing time and effort into routine air conditioning maintenance is a proactive strategy that can substantially benefit your entire HVAC system in the long run.