As the hot summer sunshine starts to fade and the refreshingly cool weather of fall starts to settle in, residents of York start preparing their homes and yards for the winter. For many, that leads to the question of whether they should cover their exterior air conditioner for the winter.

While it may seem like a smart idea, in reality there are several 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 sometimes cause problems.

Here, the professionals at Strine's 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 winter. These systems 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 designed to protect the internal components 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 cold months is because doing so can trap moisture—which is not at all 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 an undesirable odor, but they can also present health risks, especially for individuals with respiratory issues or allergies. Additionally, the trapped 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. Your Covered Air Conditioning Unit Can Attract Animals

Human beings aren’t the only ones who prepare for winter. Animals that live around your home are also looking for a warm, cozy place to crash for the winter months. For many animals, a covered air conditioner is the perfect winter home.

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats commonly make winter dens inside covered air conditioners. Animals living in a covered air conditioner 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 construct a warm and comfortable place to get out of the cold weather can block airflow and ventilation, reducing the efficiency of the unit and potentially causing it to overheat. In addition, animal waste can result in unsanitary conditions and foul odors.

Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps dissuade wildlife, because an uncovered AC gives them less shelter from chilly temperatures than a covered unit. That’s better for your air conditioner—and leaves you with less mess to pick up and things to repair when winter is over.

4. An AC Cover Restricts Airflow

Another reason it’s better that you don’t cover your AC unit in the winter is because a cover limits airflow through the unit. Suitable airflow is vital for the AC system because it helps with heat exchange and allows the unit to cool effectively. When airflow is reduced, the system has to work harder to achieve the desired temperature, leading to increased energy consumption and strain on the components.

In addition, if you run your air conditioning without noticing that the outside unit is covered or because you simply forgot, it could result in a range of problems. One issue is that the lack of appropriate airflow could cause the compressor to overheat, causing its failure or damage.  That’s why it is essential to ensure the outdoor unit is always cleared of any barriers and is not covered to maintain maximum airflow.

5. AC Maintenance Offers More Benefits 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 numerous key maintenance activities you should prioritize to ensure optimal performance and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s a good idea to examine 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 you don’t see any dirt and dust buildup that would hinder 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, investing time and effort into routine air conditioning maintenance is a proactive approach that can substantially benefit your entire HVAC system in the long run.