As the scorching summer heat starts to fade and the cooler temperatures of fall starts to settle in, residents of Thousand Palms start preparing their homes and yards for the winter. For many, that leads to the question of whether they need to cover their outside AC for the winter.

While it may seem like a good idea, the reality is there are multiple reasons why you shouldn’t cover your AC unit in the winter. On top of not being something you need to do, covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment can actually cause problems.

Here, the professionals at Marios Air Conditioning 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. Snow won’t Hurt Your AC

Outside AC units are designed to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the winter season. 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 designed to protect the internal elements from moisture and debris.

2. Covering AC Systems can Encourage Mold

One of the reasons you shouldn’t cover your air conditioner in the winter 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 thrive.

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

Instead of covering the unit, instead ensure proper drainage and keep the area around the unit clean of debris, allowing for efficient airflow and preventing moisture buildup.

3. A Covered Air Conditioner Can Attract Animals

Humans aren’t the only ones who prepare 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 ideal winter dwelling.

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats often make nests inside covered air conditioners. Animals dwelling in a covered air conditioner can cause many problems. Rats can chew through wires, insulation and other parts, causing damage that may require pricey repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to make themselves a warm and comfortable bed can impair airflow and ventilation, decreasing the efficiency of the AC and potentially causing it to overheat. In addition, animal waste can result in unsanitary conditions and potent odors.

Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps dissuade creatures, 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. A Winter Cover for AC Units Restricts Airflow

Another reason you shouldn’t cover your AC unit in the winter is because a cover blocks airflow through the unit. Proper airflow is essential for the AC system because it helps with heat exchange and permits the unit to cool efficiently. When airflow is restricted, the system has to work harder to achieve the desired temperature, causing increased energy consumption and strain on the components.

In addition, if you run your air conditioning without knowing 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 proper airflow could cause the compressor to overheat, causing its failure or damage.  That’s why it is essential to ensure the outdoor unit is free from barriers and is not covered to maintain the best possible airflow.

5. AC Maintenance Works Better Than Covering Your Air Conditioner

The bottom line is, it’s lots more effective to do a little maintenance for your cooling system 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 wise to examine your outdoor AC unit regularly and remove any debris such as leaves, sticks and dirt to allow proper airflow. Second, inspect and clean the coils, fins and filters to make sure there isn’t any dirt and dust buildup that would impede effective heat exchange or airflow.

Scheduled air conditioning maintenance not only boosts efficiency, but it also helps extend the unit’s life span, decreases energy consumption and avoids costly repairs. Rather than using a cover, putting time and effort into routine air conditioning maintenance is a proactive strategy that can significantly benefit your entire HVAC system in the long run.