As the scorching summer sunshine starts to fade and the cooler temperatures of fall starts to settle in, residents of Monroe start preparing their homes and yards for the the upcoming cold weather. For many, that leads to the question of whether they need to cover their outside AC for the winter.

While it may seem like a great idea, the fact is there are many 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 professionals at Lanz Furnace and Fireplace 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 can Handle Snow

Outside AC units are supposed to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the winter season. These systems are built with solid materials and parts that can handle the outdoor elements without damage. The coils and fins of the unit are constructed to resist corrosion, and the housing is crafted to protect the internal components from moisture and debris.

2. Covering Your Air Conditioner Can Cause Mold

One of the reasons you should avoid covering your AC unit in the wintertime is because doing so can trap moisture—which is not at all what you want in your outdoor unit. That’s because allowing moisture to collect inside the unit generates the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to flourish.

Mold and mildew not only have a bad odor, but they can also pose health risks, especially for individuals with respiratory issues or allergies. Also, the unwanted moisture can corrode the internal components of the AC unit.

Instead of 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. A Covered Air Conditioner Can Attract Animals

People aren’t the only ones who make plans for winter. Animals that live around your home are also searching for a warm, cozy place to crash for the wintry months. For many critters, a covered air conditioner is an ideal winter refuge.

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats often make nests inside covered air conditioners. Animals residing in a covered AC unit can cause many 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 block airflow and ventilation, lowering the efficiency of the AC and potentially causing it to overheat. Additionally, animal waste can result in unsanitary conditions and foul odors.

Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps discourage creatures, because an uncovered AC provides less shelter from chilly temperatures than a covered unit. That’s better for your AC—and leaves you with less mess to throw away and things to repair when winter is over.

4. Covering Your Air Conditioner Restricts Airflow

Another reason not to cover your air conditioning equipment in the winter is because a cover blocks airflow through the unit. Adequate airflow is essential for the AC system because it assists heat exchange and permits the unit to cool effectively. When airflow is restricted, the system has to work harder to reach the desired temperature, leading to greater energy consumption and strain on the components.

In addition, if you turn on your air conditioning without noticing that the outdoor unit is covered or because you simply forgot, it could result in a range of problems. One issue is that the absence 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 blockages 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 cooling system than to cover your outside AC unit.

There are a number of key maintenance tasks you should prioritize to ensure the best possible operation and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s wise to examine your outdoor AC unit regularly and clear any debris such as leaves, twigs and dirt to promote proper airflow. Second, inspect and clean the coils, fins and filters to make sure they are free from dirt and dust buildup that would impede successful heat exchange or airflow.

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