As the sweltering summer sunshine starts to fade and the refreshingly cool weather of fall starts to settle in, residents of Oxford start preparing their homes and yards for the wintertime. For many, that leads to the question of whether they should cover their outside air conditioning unit for the winter.

While it may seem like a good idea, in reality there are multiple 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 Franklin's Heating & Air Conditioning, Inc 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

Outdoor AC units are built to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the winter season. These machines are built with sturdy materials and hardware that can handle the outdoor elements without damage. The coils and fins of the unit are constructed 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 wintertime is because doing so can trap moisture—which is definitely not what you want in your outdoor unit. That’s because sealing moisture inside the unit creates the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to thrive.

Mold and mildew not only have a bad smell, but they can also pose health risks, especially for household residents with respiratory issues or allergies. Additionally, the excess moisture can corrode the internal components of the AC unit.

Rather than covering the unit, instead provide 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

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

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats often make winter dens inside covered air conditioners. Animals residing in a covered air conditioner can cause many problems. Rats can chew through wires, insulation and other parts, 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 obstruct airflow and ventilation, reducing the efficiency of the AC and potentially causing it to overheat. In addition, animal waste can result in unsanitary conditions and foul odors.

Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps dissuade animals, 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 in the spring.

4. An AC Cover Restricts Airflow

Another reason it's better that you don't cover your air conditioner in the winter is because a cover blocks airflow through the unit. Proper airflow is vital for the AC system because it helps with heat exchange and allows the unit to cool efficiently. When airflow is constrained, the system has to work harder to reach the desired temperature, causing increased energy consumption and strain on the components.

In addition, if you run your AC without noticing that the outside unit is covered or because you simply forgot, it could result in a range of problems. One issue is that the shortage of proper airflow could cause the compressor to overheat, leading to its failure or damage.  That’s why it is essential to ensure the outdoor unit is free from obstructions 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 conditioning unit than to cover your outside AC unit.

There are several key maintenance activities you should prioritize to ensure the best possible function and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s smart to check your outdoor AC unit regularly and remove any debris such as leaves, twigs and dirt to maintain proper airflow. Second, examine and clean the coils, fins and filters to make sure there isn't any dirt and dust buildup that would prevent successful heat exchange or airflow.

Regular air conditioning maintenance not only improves efficiency, but it also helps extend the unit's life span, decreases energy consumption and protects against costly repairs. Rather than using a cover, committing time and effort into routine air conditioning maintenance is a proactive approach that can substantially benefit your entire HVAC system in the long run.