As the sweltering summer sun starts to fade and the cooler temperatures of fall starts to settle in, residents of Derby start preparing their homes and yards for the winter. For many, that leads to the question of whether they ought to cover their outside air conditioner for the winter.

While it may seem like a great idea, the reality is there are a number of reasons why you shouldn’t cover your AC unit in the winter. In addition to not being something you need to do, covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment can actually cause problems.

Here, the experts at Giordanos Heating and Air Conditioning 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. Snow won't Hurt Your AC

Exterior AC units are built to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the wintertime. These machines are built with durable materials and components 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 designed to protect the internal parts from moisture and debris.

2. Covered AC Systems may Encourage Mold Growth

One of the reasons you should avoid covering your air conditioner 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 trapping moisture inside the unit creates the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to flourish.

Mold and mildew not only have an unpleasant aroma, but they can also pose health risks, especially for people 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 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

People aren’t the only ones who prepare for winter. Animals that live around your home are also searching 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 homes inside covered air conditioners. Animals dwelling in a covered air conditioner can cause numerous problems. Rats can chew through wires, insulation and other connections, causing damage that may require expensive repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to make themselves a warm and comfortable place to get out of the cold weather can block airflow and ventilation, lowering the efficiency of the AC and potentially causing it to overheat. Additionally, animal waste can result in unsanitary conditions and foul odors.

Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps deter creatures, because an uncovered AC gives them less shelter from the elements than a covered unit. That’s better for your cooling system—and leaves you with less mess to throw away and things to repair in the spring.

4. An AC Cover Restricts Airflow

Another reason you shouldn't cover your air conditioning equipment in the winter is because a cover blocks airflow through the unit. Adequate airflow is vital 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 achieve the desired temperature, leading to additional energy consumption and strain on the components.

In addition, if you turn on your AC without realizing that the outside unit is covered or because you simply forgot, it could result in a range of problems. One issue is that the lack of proper 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 always cleared of any barriers and is not covered to maintain maximum 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 cooling system than to cover your outside AC unit.

There are several key maintenance tasks you should prioritize to ensure maximum operation and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s a good idea to check your outdoor AC unit regularly and clear any debris such as leaves, sticks and dirt to promote proper airflow. Second, examine and clean the coils, fins and filters to make sure they are free from dirt and dust buildup that would impede effective heat exchange or airflow.

Regular 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 strategy that can substantially benefit your entire HVAC system in the long run.