As the scorching summer heat starts to fade and the relief of fall starts to settle in, residents of Lawrence 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 good idea, the truth is there are several reasons why you shouldn’t cover your AC unit in the winter. Along with not being necessary, covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment can even cause problems.

Here, the experts at Scott Temperature 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 can Handle Snow

Exterior AC units are supposed to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the wintertime. These systems are built with solid 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. 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 not at all 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 odor, but they can also create health risks, especially for individuals with respiratory issues or allergies. Plus, the unwanted moisture can corrode the internal components of the AC unit.

Instead of covering the unit, instead make sure the unit has proper drainage and keep the area around the unit cleared of debris, allowing for efficient airflow and preventing moisture buildup.

3. A Covered Air Conditioner Can Attract Animals

People aren’t the only ones who make plans for winter. Animals that live around your home are also looking for a warm, cozy place to hide out for the cold months. For many animals, a covered air conditioner is the perfect winter home.

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats often make nests inside covered air conditioners. Animals residing in a covered AC unit can cause numerous problems. Mice can chew through wires, insulation and other connections, causing damage that may require pricey repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to make themselves a warm and comfortable bed can obstruct airflow and ventilation, limiting the efficiency of the unit and potentially causing it to overheat. Moreover, animal droppings can result in unsanitary conditions and bad odors.

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

4. An AC Cover 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 facilitates heat exchange and enables the unit to cool properly. When airflow is constrained, the system has to work harder to maintain the desired temperature, resulting in 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, leading to its failure or damage.  That’s why it is necessary 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 lots more effective to do a little maintenance for your air conditioning unit than to cover your exterior AC unit.

There are a number of key maintenance activities you should prioritize to ensure optimal performance and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s smart to check your outdoor AC unit regularly and get rid of any debris such as leaves, small branches and dirt to allow proper airflow. Second, inspect and clean the coils, fins and filters to make sure you don't see any dirt and dust buildup that would impede effective heat exchange or airflow.

Scheduled air conditioning maintenance not only enhances efficiency, but it also helps extend the unit's life span, lowers 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.