As the hot summer sunshine starts to fade and the cooler temperatures of fall starts to settle in, residents of Moline start preparing their homes and yards for the wintertime. For many, that leads to the question of whether they need to cover their outdoor AC for the winter.

While it may seem like a great idea, the fact 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 even cause problems.

Here, the specialists at J.L. Brady Company LLC share five reasons why covering your air conditioner 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. These units are built with durable materials and hardware 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 parts from moisture and debris.

2. Covering Your Air Conditioner Can Cause Mold

One of the reasons you shouldn’t cover your air conditioner in the cold months 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 a bad aroma, but they can also present health risks, especially for individuals with respiratory issues or allergies. Also, the unwanted moisture can corrode the internal components of the AC unit.

Rather than 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. Covered AC Systems Can Attract Animals

You and your family aren’t the only ones who make plans for winter. Animals that live around your home are also hunting for a warm, cozy place to crash for the wintry months. For many creatures, a covered air conditioner is an ideal winter dwelling.

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats commonly make homes inside covered air conditioners. Animals dwelling in a covered air conditioner can cause numerous problems. Rats can chew through wires, insulation and other parts, causing damage that may require expensive repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to create a warm and comfortable bed can obstruct airflow and ventilation, lowering the efficiency of the appliance and potentially causing it to overheat. Additionally, animal droppings can result in unsanitary conditions and bad odors.

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

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 limits airflow through the unit. Proper airflow is essential for the AC system because it assists heat exchange and permits the unit to cool effectively. When airflow is reduced, the system has to work harder to maintain the desired temperature, leading to increased energy consumption and strain on the components.

In addition, if you turn on your AC without knowing that the outdoor unit is covered or because you simply forgot, it could result in a range of problems. One issue is that the absence of correct airflow could cause the compressor to overheat, causing its failure or damage.  That’s why it is vital to ensure the outdoor unit has no blockages and is not covered to maintain optimal 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 air conditioner than to cover your outside 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 wise to examine your outdoor AC unit regularly and pull out any debris such as leaves, small branches and dirt to allow proper airflow. Second, examine and clean the coils, fins and filters to make sure there isn't any dirt and dust buildup that would hinder efficient heat exchange or airflow.

Scheduled air conditioning maintenance not only improves efficiency, but it also helps extend the unit's life span, decreases 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 greatly benefit your entire HVAC system in the long run.