As the sweltering summer sun starts to fade and the relief of fall starts to settle in, residents of Belton start preparing their homes and yards for the wintertime. For many, that leads to the question of whether they should cover their outdoor AC for the winter.

While it may seem like a good idea, the reality 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 specialists at Myers Furnace Company share five reasons why covering your AC doesn’t need to be on your fall to-do list and what you should do instead.

1. Snow won’t Hurt Your AC

Outdoor AC units are supposed to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the winter. 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 specially developed to resist corrosion, and the housing is manufactured to protect the internal components from moisture and debris.

2. Covered AC Systems may Encourage Mold Growth

One of the reasons you shouldn’t cover 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 sealing moisture inside the unit generates the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to spread.

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

As an alternative to covering the unit, instead ensure proper drainage and keep the area around the unit clear of debris, allowing for efficient airflow and preventing moisture buildup.

3. Covered AC Systems Can Attract 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 wintry months. For many creatures, 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 AC unit can cause many problems. Rodents can chew through wires, insulation and other components, causing damage that may require costly repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to create a warm and comfortable nest can block airflow and ventilation, decreasing the efficiency of the appliance and potentially causing it to overheat. Additionally, animal droppings can result in unsanitary conditions and bad odors.

Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps deter 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 in the spring.

4. Covering Your Air Conditioner Restricts Airflow

Another reason it’s better that you don’t cover your AC unit in the winter is because a cover restricts airflow through the unit. Proper airflow is vital 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, resulting in greater energy consumption and strain on the components.

In addition, if you turn on your air conditioning without knowing that the exterior 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, resulting in its failure or damage.  That’s why it is vital to ensure the outdoor unit is always cleared of any blockages and is not covered to maintain maximum airflow.

5. AC Maintenance Works Better Than Covering Your Air Conditioner

The bottom line is, it’s lots more effective to do a little maintenance for your air conditioning unit than to cover your exterior AC unit.

There are several key maintenance activities you should prioritize to ensure optimal operation and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s wise to inspect your outdoor AC unit regularly and pull out any debris such as leaves, small branches and dirt to allow 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 impede successful heat exchange or airflow.

Scheduled air conditioning maintenance not only boosts 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 plan of action that can greatly benefit your entire HVAC system in the long run.