As the hot summer sun starts to fade and the refreshingly cool weather of fall starts to settle in, residents of Macon start preparing their homes and yards for the the upcoming cold weather. For many, that leads to the question of whether they should cover their outdoor air conditioner for the winter.

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

Here, the professionals at Air Temperature Control share five reasons why covering your AC 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 designed to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the winter season. 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 engineered to resist corrosion, and the housing is crafted to protect the internal elements 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 allowing moisture to collect inside the unit creates the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to thrive.

Mold and mildew not only have a bad smell, but they can also create health risks, especially for individuals with respiratory issues or allergies. Also, the excess 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 free 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 live for the cold months. For many creatures, a covered air conditioner is an awesome winter refuge.

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats frequently make winter dens inside covered air conditioners. Animals residing in a covered air conditioning unit can cause many problems. Rodents 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 place to get out of the cold weather can impair airflow and ventilation, reducing the efficiency of the unit and potentially causing it to overheat. Moreover, animal excrement can result in unsanitary conditions and foul odors.

Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps discourage wildlife, because an uncovered AC offers less shelter from the elements than a covered unit. That’s better for your AC—and leaves you with less mess to throw away and things to repair once the snow melts.

4. Covering Your Air Conditioner Restricts Airflow

Another reason you shouldn't cover your air conditioner in the winter is because a cover limits airflow through the unit. Adequate airflow is vital for the AC system because it facilitates heat exchange and allows the unit to cool efficiently. When airflow is restricted, the system has to work harder to achieve the desired temperature, causing greater energy consumption and strain on the components.

In addition, if you run your AC 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 lack of appropriate airflow could cause the compressor to overheat, resulting in its failure or damage.  That’s why it is vital to ensure the outdoor unit has no obstructions and is not covered to maintain the best possible 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 cooling system than to cover your outdoor AC unit.

There are a number of key maintenance tasks 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, sticks and dirt to maintain proper airflow. Second, examine and clean the coils, fins and filters to make sure you don't see any dirt and dust buildup that would prevent successful 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 protects against 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.