As the sweltering summer heat starts to fade and the refreshingly cool weather of fall starts to settle in, residents of Norco and St. Charles Parish start preparing their homes and yards for the wintertime. For many, that leads to the question of whether they ought to cover their outside air conditioner for the winter.

While it may seem like a great idea, in reality there are a number of reasons why you shouldn’t cover your AC unit in the winter. Along with not being needed, covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment can actually cause problems.

Here, the specialists at Mayeuxs AC & Heating 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 can Handle Snow

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

2. Covering AC Systems can Encourage Mold

One of the reasons you should not cover your air conditioner 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 generates the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to spread.

Mold and mildew not only have a bad aroma, but they can also pose health risks, especially for individuals with respiratory issues or allergies. Also, the trapped moisture can corrode the internal components of the AC unit.

As an alternative to covering the unit, instead ensure 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 Host Animals

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

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats often make nests inside covered air conditioners. Animals residing in a covered AC unit can cause numerous problems. Rodents can chew through wires, insulation and other connections, causing damage that may require expensive repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to create a warm and comfortable home can obstruct airflow and ventilation, limiting the efficiency of the AC and potentially causing it to overheat. Additionally, animal excrement can result in unsanitary conditions and foul odors.

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

4. Covering Your Air Conditioner Restricts Airflow

Another reason you shouldn't cover your air conditioning equipment 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 enables the unit to cool efficiently. When airflow is severely limited, the system has to work harder to achieve the desired temperature, resulting in additional energy consumption and strain on the components.

In addition, if you turn on your AC without noticing 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 proper airflow could cause the compressor to overheat, causing its failure or damage.  That’s why it is necessary to ensure the outdoor unit is free from 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 lot more effective to do a little maintenance for your air conditioner than to cover your outdoor AC unit.

There are numerous key maintenance projects 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, twigs and dirt to promote 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.

Routine air conditioning maintenance not only boosts efficiency, but it also helps extend the unit's life span, lowers energy consumption and prevents costly repairs. Rather than using a cover, committing time and effort into routine air conditioning maintenance is a proactive plan of action that can significantly benefit your entire HVAC system in the long run.