As the scorching summer sun 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 winter. For many, that leads to the question of whether they should cover their outside air conditioner for the winter.

While it may seem like a smart idea, the truth is there are several 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. Your AC can Handle Snow

Outside AC units are built to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the winter season. These units are built with sturdy materials and parts 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 crafted to protect the internal parts from moisture and debris.

2. Covered AC Systems may Encourage Mold Growth

One of the reasons you should not cover your air conditioner in the wintertime is because doing so can trap moisture—which is definitely not what you want in your outdoor unit. That’s because trapping moisture inside the unit generates 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. Also, the unwanted 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. Covered AC Systems Can Host Animals

Human beings aren’t the only ones who get ready for winter. Animals that live around your home are also searching for a warm, cozy place to live for the wintry months. For many animals, 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 AC unit can cause many problems. Mice can chew through wires, insulation and other connections, 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 impair airflow and ventilation, decreasing the efficiency of the appliance and potentially causing it to overheat. Additionally, animal droppings can result in unsanitary conditions and bad odors.

Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps discourage creatures, because an uncovered AC gives them less shelter from the elements than a covered unit. That’s better for your cooling system—and leaves you with less mess to pick up and things to repair when winter is over.

4. An AC Cover Restricts Airflow

Another reason it’s better that you don’t cover your air conditioning equipment in the winter is because a cover blocks airflow through the unit. Proper airflow is crucial for the AC system because it helps with heat exchange and permits the unit to cool efficiently. When airflow is severely limited, the system has to work harder to maintain the desired temperature, resulting in additional energy consumption and strain on the components.

In addition, if you run your air conditioning without realizing that the outdoor 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, 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 the best possible airflow.

5. AC Maintenance Works Better 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 maximum function and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s wise to inspect your outdoor AC unit regularly and pull out any debris such as leaves, sticks and dirt to promote proper airflow. Second, check and clean the coils, fins and filters to make sure there isn’t any dirt and dust buildup that would hinder 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 significantly benefit your entire HVAC system in the long run.