As the scorching summer sun starts to fade and the refreshingly cool weather of fall starts to settle in, residents of Chadron start preparing their homes and yards for the winter. For many, that leads to the question of whether they ought to cover their outside AC for the winter.

While it may seem like a smart idea, the fact is there are a number of reasons why you shouldn’t cover your AC unit in the winter. In addition to not being something you need to do, covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment can actually cause problems.

Here, the professionals at MPC Heating & Cooling 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. Snow won't Hurt Your AC

Outdoor AC units are supposed to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the winter. These units 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 manufactured to protect the internal components from moisture and debris.

2. Covering Your Air Conditioner Can Cause Mold

One of the reasons you should not cover your air conditioner in the winter is because doing so can trap moisture—which is definitely not what you want in your outdoor unit. That’s because sealing moisture inside the unit generates the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to thrive.

Mold and mildew not only have an unpleasant smell, but they can also pose health risks, especially for individuals with respiratory issues or allergies. Additionally, the unwanted moisture can corrode the internal components of the AC unit.

Rather than covering the unit, instead ensure proper drainage and keep the area around the unit cleared of debris, allowing for efficient airflow and preventing moisture buildup.

3. A Covered Air Conditioner Can Attract Animals

Human beings aren’t the only ones who make plans for winter. Animals that live around your home are also searching for a warm, cozy place to live for the cold months. For many critters, a covered air conditioner is an awesome winter dwelling.

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats commonly make winter dens inside covered air conditioners. Animals dwelling in a covered air conditioning unit can cause several problems. Rats can chew through wires, insulation and other parts, causing damage that may require costly repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to construct a warm and comfortable home can impair airflow and ventilation, reducing the efficiency of the appliance and potentially causing it to overheat. Moreover, animal excrement can result in unsanitary conditions and foul odors.

Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps deter creatures, because an uncovered AC gives them 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 once the snow melts.

4. A Winter Cover for AC Units Restricts Airflow

Another reason it's better that you don't cover your air conditioning equipment in the winter is because a cover restricts airflow through the unit. Adequate airflow is crucial for the AC system because it assists heat exchange and allows the unit to cool effectively. When airflow is constrained, the system has to work harder to reach the desired temperature, causing greater energy consumption and strain on the components.

In addition, if you turn on your air conditioning 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 optimal airflow.

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

The bottom line is, it's much more effective to do a little maintenance for your cooling system than to cover your outdoor AC unit.

There are several key maintenance tasks you should prioritize to ensure optimal 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, twigs and dirt to allow proper airflow. Second, inspect 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.

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