As the scorching summer heat starts to fade and the refreshingly cool weather of fall starts to settle in, residents of Alice start preparing their homes and yards for the wintertime. For many, that leads to the question of whether they need to cover their exterior AC for the winter.

While it may seem like a great idea, the reality is there are many reasons why you shouldn’t cover your AC unit in the winter. In addition to not being something you need to do, covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment can even cause problems.

Here, the experts at Rescue Heating & Air 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

Exterior AC units are designed to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the winter season. These machines are built with solid 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 designed 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 AC unit in the cold months 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 produces the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to spread.

Mold and mildew not only have an undesirable odor, but they can also create health risks, especially for household residents with respiratory issues or allergies. Plus, the unwanted 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 clear of debris, allowing for efficient airflow and preventing moisture buildup.

3. Your Covered Air Conditioning Unit 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 wintry months. For many animals, a covered air conditioner is an awesome winter home.

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats frequently make homes inside covered air conditioners. Animals residing in a covered air conditioning unit can cause numerous problems. Rats can chew through wires, insulation and other components, causing damage that may require pricey repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to make themselves a warm and comfortable home can impair airflow and ventilation, limiting the efficiency of the unit and potentially causing it to overheat. In addition, animal droppings can result in unsanitary conditions and foul odors.

Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps deter creatures, because an uncovered AC provides less shelter from the elements than a covered unit. That’s better for your AC—and leaves you with less mess to clean 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 conditioner in the winter is because a cover blocks airflow through the unit. Proper airflow is vital for the AC system because it facilitates heat exchange and permits the unit to cool efficiently. When airflow is restricted, the system has to work harder to reach the desired temperature, leading to increased energy consumption and strain on the components.

In addition, if you turn on your air conditioner without knowing 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, resulting in its failure or damage.  That’s why it is vital to ensure the outdoor unit has no blockages and is not covered to maintain maximum 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 conditioner than to cover your outdoor AC unit.

There are numerous key maintenance activities you should prioritize to ensure the best possible function and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s wise to check your outdoor AC unit regularly and clear any debris such as leaves, sticks and dirt to promote proper airflow. Second, inspect and clean the coils, fins and filters to make sure you don't see any dirt and dust buildup that would hinder efficient heat exchange or airflow.

Scheduled air conditioning maintenance not only enhances 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 significantly benefit your entire HVAC system in the long run.