As the sweltering summer sunshine starts to fade and the cooler temperatures of fall starts to settle in, residents of Hasbrouck Heights start preparing their homes and yards for the wintertime. For many, that leads to the question of whether they should cover their exterior AC for the winter.

While it may seem like a great idea, the fact is there are several reasons why you shouldn’t cover your AC unit in the winter. On top of not being necessary, covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment can even cause problems.

Here, the professionals at ACE Solutions 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

Exterior AC units are designed to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the winter season. These systems are built with sturdy materials and parts that can handle the outdoor elements without damage. The coils and fins of the unit are constructed to resist corrosion, and the housing is crafted to protect the internal parts from moisture and debris.

2. Covered AC Systems may Encourage Mold Growth

One of the reasons you should avoid covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment in the winter is because doing so can trap moisture—which is the opposite of what you want in your outdoor unit. That’s because trapping moisture 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 present health risks, especially for household residents with respiratory issues or allergies. Also, the trapped 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 clear of debris, allowing for efficient airflow and preventing moisture buildup.

3. Covered AC Systems Can Host Animals

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

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats commonly make winter dens inside covered air conditioners. Animals living in a covered AC unit can cause numerous problems. Rodents 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 nest can obstruct airflow and ventilation, limiting the efficiency of the appliance and potentially causing it to overheat. In addition, animal excrement can result in unsanitary conditions and bad odors.

Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps deter creatures, because an uncovered AC provides less shelter from cold weather than a covered unit. That’s better for your cooling system—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 it's better that you don't cover your AC unit in the winter is because a cover restricts airflow through the unit. Adequate airflow is crucial for the AC system because it helps with heat exchange and enables the unit to cool properly. When airflow is constrained, the system has to work harder to maintain the desired temperature, leading to greater energy consumption and strain on the components.

In addition, if you use your air conditioner without knowing that the exterior 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, leading to its failure or damage.  That’s why it is vital to ensure the outdoor unit is always cleared of any blockages and is not covered to maintain maximum airflow.

5. AC Maintenance Is More Effective Than Covering Your Air Conditioner

The bottom line is, it's a whole lot more effective to do a little maintenance for your air conditioner than to cover your outside AC unit.

There are several key maintenance projects you should prioritize to ensure the best possible function and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s a good idea to look at your outdoor AC unit regularly and remove any debris such as leaves, sticks and dirt to allow proper airflow. Second, examine and clean the coils, fins and filters to make sure they are free from dirt and dust buildup that would hinder 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 avoids costly repairs. Rather than using a cover, committing time and effort into routine air conditioning maintenance is a proactive strategy that can substantially benefit your entire HVAC system in the long run.