As the sweltering summer sun starts to fade and the refreshingly cool weather of fall starts to settle in, residents of Marshalltown start preparing their homes and yards for the wintertime. For many, that leads to the question of whether they need to cover their outside air conditioner for the winter.

While it may seem like a smart idea, the fact is there are multiple reasons why you shouldn’t cover your AC unit in the winter. Along with not being needed, covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment can actually cause problems.

Here, the specialists at Kapaun & Brown 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

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

2. Covering AC Systems can Encourage Mold

One of the reasons you should not cover your AC unit in the winter is because doing so can trap moisture—which is not at all what you want in your outdoor unit. That’s because allowing moisture to collect 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 household residents with respiratory issues or allergies. Additionally, the excess moisture can corrode the internal components of the AC unit.

As an alternative to covering the unit, instead provide 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 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 live for the cold months. For many critters, a covered air conditioner is an awesome winter refuge.

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats commonly make homes inside covered air conditioners. Animals living in a covered AC unit can cause numerous problems. Mice can chew through wires, insulation and other connections, causing damage that may require costly repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to create a warm and comfortable home can impair airflow and ventilation, lowering the efficiency of the appliance and potentially causing it to overheat. In addition, animal droppings can result in unsanitary conditions and potent odors.

Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps discourage animals, because an uncovered AC offers less shelter from the elements than a covered unit. That’s better for your cooling system—and leaves you with less mess to pick up and things to repair when winter is over.

4. Covering Your Air Conditioner Restricts Airflow

Another reason you shouldn't cover your air conditioning equipment in the winter is because a cover restricts airflow through the unit. Adequate airflow is crucial for the AC system because it assists heat exchange and enables the unit to cool efficiently. When airflow is restricted, 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 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 shortage of appropriate airflow could cause the compressor to overheat, causing its failure or damage.  That’s why it is necessary to ensure the outdoor unit has no blockages and is not covered to maintain optimal airflow.

5. AC Maintenance Is More Effective Than Covering Your Air Conditioner

The bottom line is, it's a whole lot more effective to do a little maintenance for your air conditioner than to cover your outdoor AC unit.

There are a number of key maintenance activities you should prioritize to ensure maximum performance and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s wise to look at your outdoor AC unit regularly and get rid of any debris such as leaves, twigs and dirt to promote proper airflow. Second, inspect 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.

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