As the scorching summer sun starts to fade and the cooler temperatures of fall starts to settle in, residents of Safford start preparing their homes and yards for the winter. For many, that leads to the question of whether they ought to cover their outdoor AC for the winter.

While it may seem like a smart 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 necessary, covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment can sometimes cause problems.

Here, the experts at B&D Air Conditioning 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 can Handle Snow

Outside AC units are built to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the winter. These machines are built with sturdy materials and hardware that can handle the outdoor elements without damage. The coils and fins of the unit are constructed 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 air conditioner in the cold months is because doing so can trap moisture—which is definitely not what you want in your outdoor unit. That’s because trapping moisture inside the unit produces the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to flourish.

Mold and mildew not only have a bad aroma, but they can also create health risks, especially for people with respiratory issues or allergies. Also, the trapped moisture can corrode the internal components of the AC unit.

Rather than covering the unit, instead make sure the unit has proper drainage and keep the area around the unit clean 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 get ready 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 critters, a covered air conditioner is an awesome winter refuge.

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats often make homes inside covered air conditioners. Animals living in a covered air conditioning unit can cause several problems. Rodents can chew through wires, insulation and other connections, causing damage that may require expensive repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to create a warm and comfortable bed 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 chilly temperatures than a covered unit. That’s better for your AC—and leaves you with less mess to pick 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 AC unit in the winter is because a cover blocks airflow through the unit. Proper airflow is crucial for the AC system because it helps with heat exchange and permits the unit to cool efficiently. When airflow is severely limited, the system has to work harder to reach the desired temperature, causing additional energy consumption and strain on the components.

In addition, if you run your air conditioner without noticing 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 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 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 much more effective to do a little maintenance for your air conditioning unit than to cover your exterior AC unit.

There are numerous key maintenance projects you should prioritize to ensure the best possible operation and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s wise to inspect your outdoor AC unit regularly and clear any debris such as leaves, twigs and dirt to promote 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 efficient heat exchange or airflow.

Scheduled air conditioning maintenance not only improves efficiency, but it also helps extend the unit's life span, reduces energy consumption and prevents 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.