As the scorching summer heat starts to fade and the cooler temperatures of fall starts to settle in, residents of Magnolia start preparing their homes and yards for the winter. For many, that leads to the question of whether they ought to cover their exterior AC for the winter.

While it may seem like a good idea, the reality is there are several reasons why you shouldn’t cover your AC unit in the winter. Along with not being necessary, covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment can sometimes cause problems.

Here, the specialists at JTech Mechanical 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 machines 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 designed to protect the internal elements from moisture and debris.

2. Covering AC Systems can Encourage Mold

One of the reasons you shouldn’t cover your air conditioner 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 creates the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to flourish.

Mold and mildew not only have an unpleasant smell, but they can also present health risks, especially for people with respiratory issues or allergies. Also, the excess moisture can corrode the internal components of the AC unit.

Instead of covering the unit, instead provide proper drainage and keep the area around the unit cleared of debris, allowing for efficient airflow and preventing moisture buildup.

3. A Covered Air Conditioner Can Host Animals

Human beings aren’t the only ones who make plans for winter. Animals that live around your home are also looking for a warm, cozy place to hide out for the winter months. For many creatures, a covered air conditioner is an awesome winter dwelling.

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats often make winter dens inside covered air conditioners. Animals living in a covered AC unit can cause many problems. Rats can chew through wires, insulation and other parts, causing damage that may require expensive repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to construct a warm and comfortable home can block airflow and ventilation, limiting the efficiency of the AC and potentially causing it to overheat. In addition, animal excrement can result in unsanitary conditions and potent odors.

Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps dissuade 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 throw away and things to repair when winter is over.

4. An AC Cover Restricts Airflow

Another reason you shouldn't cover your AC unit in the winter is because a cover blocks airflow through the unit. Suitable airflow is crucial for the AC system because it helps with heat exchange and allows the unit to cool effectively. When airflow is restricted, the system has to work harder to reach the desired temperature, causing additional energy consumption and strain on the components.

In addition, if you use your air conditioner without realizing that the exterior unit is covered or because you simply forgot, it could result in a range of problems. One issue is that the absence of correct airflow could cause the compressor to overheat, resulting in its failure or damage.  That’s why it is essential to ensure the outdoor unit is free from 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 much more effective to do a little maintenance for your air conditioner than to cover your outdoor AC unit.

There are several key maintenance tasks you should prioritize to ensure maximum performance and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s wise to examine your outdoor AC unit regularly and remove any debris such as leaves, small branches and dirt to allow proper airflow. Second, examine and clean the coils, fins and filters to make sure they are free from dirt and dust buildup that would prevent efficient heat exchange or airflow.

Regular air conditioning maintenance not only boosts efficiency, but it also helps extend the unit's life span, reduces energy consumption and prevents 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.