As the hot summer sun starts to fade and the refreshingly cool weather of fall starts to settle in, residents of Lafayette 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 smart idea, the truth is there are a number of reasons why you shouldn’t cover your AC unit in the winter. In addition to not being necessary, covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment can actually cause problems.

Here, the specialists at AC Sales 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 Unit Isn’t Damaged by Snow

Outside AC units are built to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the winter season. These systems are built with sturdy materials and hardware 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 components from moisture and debris.

2. Covering AC Systems can Encourage Mold

One of the reasons you should not cover your AC unit in the wintertime is because doing so can trap moisture—which is definitely not what you want in your outdoor unit. That’s because allowing moisture to collect inside the unit creates the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to thrive.

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

As an alternative to covering the unit, instead make sure the unit has proper drainage and keep the area around the unit free 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 get ready for winter. Animals that live around your home are also searching for a warm, cozy place to crash for the cold months. For many critters, a covered air conditioner is the perfect winter dwelling.

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats commonly make homes inside covered air conditioners. Animals residing in a covered AC unit can cause numerous problems. Mice can chew through wires, insulation and other components, causing damage that may require costly repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to make themselves a warm and comfortable bed can obstruct airflow and ventilation, decreasing the efficiency of the appliance and potentially causing it to overheat. Moreover, animal excrement can result in unsanitary conditions and potent odors.

Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps dissuade animals, because an uncovered AC offers less shelter from cold weather 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 it's better that you don't cover your AC unit in the winter is because a cover blocks airflow through the unit. Suitable airflow is essential for the AC system because it facilitates heat exchange and enables the unit to cool effectively. When airflow is constrained, 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 use your air conditioner without noticing 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, leading to its failure or damage.  That’s why it is crucial to ensure the outdoor unit is free from obstructions and is not covered to maintain the best possible airflow.

5. AC Maintenance Is More Effective 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 numerous key maintenance activities you should prioritize to ensure maximum function and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s smart to check your outdoor AC unit regularly and get rid of any debris such as leaves, sticks and dirt to allow proper airflow. Second, check and clean the coils, fins and filters to make sure there isn't any dirt and dust buildup that would impede effective heat exchange or airflow.

Routine air conditioning maintenance not only improves efficiency, but it also helps extend the unit's life span, reduces 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 significantly benefit your entire HVAC system in the long run.