As the scorching summer sunshine starts to fade and the relief of fall starts to settle in, residents of Front Royal 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 exterior air conditioner for the winter.

While it may seem like a smart idea, in reality there are multiple reasons why you shouldn’t cover your AC unit in the winter. On top of not being necessary, covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment can actually cause problems.

Here, the specialists at Dave's Diversified Services 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 Unit Isn’t Damaged by Snow

Outside AC units are supposed to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the wintertime. These units are built with durable materials and components that can handle the outdoor elements without damage. The coils and fins of the unit are engineered 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 avoid covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment in the winter is because doing so can trap moisture—which is the opposite of what you want in your outdoor unit. That’s because trapping moisture 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 household residents with respiratory issues or allergies. Plus, the unwanted 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 cleared of debris, allowing for efficient airflow and preventing moisture buildup.

3. Covered AC Systems Can Attract Animals

Humans aren’t the only ones who prepare for winter. Animals that live around your home are also hunting for a warm, cozy place to hide out for the wintry months. For many creatures, a covered air conditioner is an ideal winter refuge.

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats frequently make nests inside covered air conditioners. Animals residing in a covered air conditioning unit can cause numerous problems. Rats can chew through wires, insulation and other parts, causing damage that may require pricey repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to make themselves a warm and comfortable nest can block airflow and ventilation, decreasing the efficiency of the unit and potentially causing it to overheat. Moreover, animal excrement can result in unsanitary conditions and bad odors.

Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps discourage animals, because an uncovered AC provides less shelter from cold weather than a covered unit. That’s better for your cooling system—and leaves you with less mess to pick up and things to repair once the snow melts.

4. A Winter Cover for AC Units Restricts Airflow

Another reason not to cover your AC unit in the winter is because a cover restricts airflow through the unit. Suitable airflow is crucial for the AC system because it helps with heat exchange and enables the unit to cool properly. When airflow is severely limited, 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 conditioner 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, leading to its failure or damage.  That’s why it is crucial to ensure the outdoor unit has no 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 a whole lot more effective to do a little maintenance for your cooling system than to cover your outside AC unit.

There are several key maintenance tasks you should prioritize to ensure the best possible performance and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s smart to examine your outdoor AC unit regularly and remove 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 they are free from dirt and dust buildup that would hinder effective 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 prevents costly repairs. Rather than using a cover, putting time and effort into routine air conditioning maintenance is a proactive approach that can significantly benefit your entire HVAC system in the long run.