As the hot summer sunshine starts to fade and the cooler temperatures of fall starts to settle in, residents of Bartlesville start preparing their homes and yards for the winter. 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 good 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 needed, covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment can even cause problems.

Here, the professionals at Farris Heating & Air 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 wintertime. These systems are built with durable materials and parts that can handle the outdoor elements without damage. The coils and fins of the unit are constructed to resist corrosion, and the housing is manufactured to protect the internal elements 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 the opposite of what you want in your outdoor unit. That’s because sealing moisture inside the unit produces the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to thrive.

Mold and mildew not only have an unpleasant aroma, but they can also pose health risks, especially for household residents with respiratory issues or allergies. Plus, the excess 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. Covered AC Systems 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 searching for a warm, cozy place to hide out for the winter months. For many animals, a covered air conditioner is an awesome winter refuge.

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats commonly make homes inside covered air conditioners. Animals residing in a covered air conditioner can cause numerous problems. Mice 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 home can obstruct airflow and ventilation, reducing the efficiency of the appliance and potentially causing it to overheat. In addition, animal droppings can result in unsanitary conditions and foul odors.

Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps dissuade animals, because an uncovered AC provides less shelter from chilly temperatures 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. A Winter Cover for AC Units Restricts Airflow

Another reason it's better that you don't cover your air conditioner in the winter is because a cover blocks airflow through the unit. Suitable airflow is vital for the AC system because it assists heat exchange and enables the unit to cool properly. When airflow is restricted, the system has to work harder to maintain the desired temperature, causing additional energy consumption and strain on the components.

In addition, if you run your air conditioning without realizing that the exterior 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, causing its failure or damage.  That’s why it is essential to ensure the outdoor unit has no barriers 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 conditioner than to cover your exterior AC unit.

There are several key maintenance activities you should prioritize to ensure optimal 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, twigs and dirt to maintain proper airflow. Second, check and clean the coils, fins and filters to make sure they are free from dirt and dust buildup that would prevent effective heat exchange or airflow.

Routine air conditioning maintenance not only enhances efficiency, but it also helps extend the unit's life span, lowers energy consumption and prevents costly repairs. Rather than using a cover, committing time and effort into routine air conditioning maintenance is a proactive strategy that can greatly benefit your entire HVAC system in the long run.