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

While it may seem like a smart idea, the fact 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 actually cause problems.

Here, the professionals at Everest Heating & Cooling 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

Outdoor AC units are designed to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the wintertime. These units are built with sturdy materials and components 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 Your Air Conditioner Can Cause Mold

One of the reasons you shouldn’t 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 allowing moisture to collect inside the unit generates the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to thrive.

Mold and mildew not only have an undesirable odor, but they can also present health risks, especially for household residents with respiratory issues or allergies. Additionally, the unwanted moisture can corrode the internal components of the AC unit.

As an alternative to covering the unit, instead make sure the unit has proper drainage and keep the area around the unit free of debris, allowing for efficient airflow and preventing moisture buildup.

3. A Covered Air Conditioner Can Host Animals

Humans 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 crash for the cold months. For many critters, a covered air conditioner is an awesome winter dwelling.

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats commonly make nests inside covered air conditioners. Animals residing in a covered air conditioning unit can cause many problems. Rats can chew through wires, insulation and other parts, causing damage that may require expensive repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to make themselves a warm and comfortable nest can obstruct airflow and ventilation, decreasing the efficiency of the unit and potentially causing it to overheat. Moreover, animal waste can result in unsanitary conditions and potent odors.

Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps dissuade wildlife, because an uncovered AC provides less shelter from chilly temperatures than a covered unit. That’s better for your air conditioner—and leaves you with less mess to throw away and things to repair in the spring.

4. An AC Cover Restricts Airflow

Another reason you shouldn’t cover your air conditioner in the winter is because a cover restricts airflow through the unit. Proper airflow is crucial for the AC system because it helps with heat exchange and permits the unit to cool effectively. When airflow is reduced, the system has to work harder to maintain the desired temperature, resulting in increased energy consumption and strain on the components.

In addition, if you use your air conditioner without realizing that the outside unit is covered or because you simply forgot, it could result in a range of problems. One issue is that the shortage of correct airflow could cause the compressor to overheat, resulting in its failure or damage.  That’s why it is essential to ensure the outdoor unit is free from obstructions and is not covered to maintain maximum airflow.

5. AC Maintenance Works Better Than Covering Your Air Conditioner

The bottom line is, it’s a lot more effective to do a little maintenance for your cooling system than to cover your outdoor AC unit.

There are several key maintenance tasks you should prioritize to ensure the best possible performance and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s a good idea to look at your outdoor AC unit regularly and pull out any debris such as leaves, twigs and dirt to allow proper airflow. Second, check and clean the coils, fins and filters to make sure there isn’t any dirt and dust buildup that would prevent successful heat exchange or airflow.

Regular air conditioning maintenance not only enhances efficiency, but it also helps extend the unit’s life span, reduces energy consumption and prevents costly repairs. Rather than using a cover, investing time and effort into routine air conditioning maintenance is a proactive approach that can significantly benefit your entire HVAC system in the long run.