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

While it may seem like a smart idea, the truth is there are many reasons why you shouldn’t cover your AC unit in the winter. Along with not being necessary, covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment can actually cause problems.

Here, the professionals at Miller Climate Control LLC 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 Unit Isn’t Damaged by Snow

Outdoor AC units are built to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the winter season. These machines 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 Your Air Conditioner Can Cause Mold

One of the reasons you should avoid covering your air conditioner in the winter 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 produces the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to thrive.

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

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

3. Your Covered Air Conditioning Unit Can Attract Animals

Humans 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 hide out for the cold months. For many critters, a covered air conditioner is the perfect winter dwelling.

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

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

4. A Winter Cover for AC Units 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 essential for the AC system because it assists heat exchange and enables the unit to cool efficiently. When airflow is severely limited, the system has to work harder to maintain the desired temperature, causing additional energy consumption and strain on the components.

In addition, if you use your air conditioner 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 shortage of correct airflow could cause the compressor to overheat, leading to its failure or damage.  That’s why it is crucial to ensure the outdoor unit has no barriers and is not covered to maintain optimal airflow.

5. AC Maintenance Offers More Benefits Than Covering Your Air Conditioner

The bottom line is, it's much 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 a good idea to look at your outdoor AC unit regularly and remove any debris such as leaves, sticks and dirt to maintain proper airflow. Second, examine and clean the coils, fins and filters to make sure you don't see any dirt and dust buildup that would prevent successful heat exchange or airflow.

Scheduled air conditioning maintenance not only enhances efficiency, but it also helps extend the unit's life span, reduces energy consumption and protects against costly repairs. Rather than using a cover, investing time and effort into routine air conditioning maintenance is a proactive plan of action that can substantially benefit your entire HVAC system in the long run.