As the hot summer sunshine starts to fade and the cooler temperatures of fall starts to settle in, residents of Croydon start preparing their homes and yards for the wintertime. For many, that leads to the question of whether they should cover their exterior air conditioning unit for the winter.

While it may seem like a smart idea, in reality there are many 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 even cause problems.

Here, the experts at Indoor Comfort Systems HVAC 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 built to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the winter season. These machines are built with durable 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. Covering AC Systems can Encourage Mold

One of the reasons you should not cover your outdoor air conditioning equipment in the winter 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 spread.

Mold and mildew not only have a bad aroma, but they can also create health risks, especially for individuals with respiratory issues or allergies. Additionally, 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 cleared of debris, allowing for efficient airflow and preventing moisture buildup.

3. Your Covered Air Conditioning Unit Can Host Animals

You and your family aren’t the only ones who make plans for winter. Animals that live around your home are also hunting for a warm, cozy place to live for the cold months. For many critters, a covered air conditioner is an awesome winter home.

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats commonly make nests inside covered air conditioners. Animals living in a covered air conditioning unit can cause several problems. Rodents can chew through wires, insulation and other parts, causing damage that may require costly repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to create a warm and comfortable bed can impair airflow and ventilation, reducing the efficiency of the unit and potentially causing it to overheat. Moreover, animal droppings can result in unsanitary conditions and bad odors.

Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps discourage creatures, because an uncovered AC provides less shelter from the elements than a covered unit. That’s better for your air conditioner—and leaves you with less mess to clean up 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. Suitable airflow is crucial for the AC system because it helps with heat exchange and allows the unit to cool effectively. When airflow is severely limited, the system has to work harder to reach the desired temperature, resulting in additional energy consumption and strain on the components.

In addition, if you run 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 shortage of correct airflow could cause the compressor to overheat, causing its failure or damage.  That’s why it is crucial to ensure the outdoor unit has no blockages and is not covered to maintain optimal airflow.

5. AC Maintenance Offers More Benefits Than Covering Your Air Conditioner

The bottom line is, it's lots more effective to do a little maintenance for your air conditioner than to cover your outdoor AC unit.

There are several key maintenance activities you should prioritize to ensure the best possible performance and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s wise to check your outdoor AC unit regularly and pull out any debris such as leaves, small branches and dirt to maintain proper airflow. Second, check and clean the coils, fins and filters to make sure you don't see any dirt and dust buildup that would prevent efficient 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 avoids 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.