As the scorching summer sun starts to fade and the relief of fall starts to settle in, residents of Mount Pleasant start preparing their homes and yards for the the upcoming cold weather. For many, that leads to the question of whether they need to cover their outside air conditioning unit for the winter.

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

Here, the professionals at Olde Towne Heating & Air 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 supposed to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the wintertime. These systems 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 parts 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 wintertime 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 generates the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to spread.

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

Rather than covering the unit, instead make sure the unit has 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

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

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats commonly make homes inside covered air conditioners. Animals dwelling in a covered air conditioner can cause several problems. Rodents can chew through wires, insulation and other components, causing damage that may require costly repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to make themselves a warm and comfortable nest can obstruct airflow and ventilation, decreasing the efficiency of the appliance and potentially causing it to overheat. In addition, animal excrement can result in unsanitary conditions and foul odors.

Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps deter wildlife, because an uncovered AC provides less shelter from the elements than a covered unit. That’s better for your AC—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 not to cover your AC unit in the winter is because a cover limits airflow through the unit. Adequate airflow is vital for the AC system because it assists heat exchange and enables the unit to cool properly. When airflow is restricted, the system has to work harder to reach the desired temperature, resulting in increased energy consumption and strain on the components.

In addition, if you use your AC 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 proper airflow could cause the compressor to overheat, resulting in its failure or damage.  That’s why it is necessary to ensure the outdoor unit is always cleared of any blockages 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 a whole lot more effective to do a little maintenance for your cooling system than to cover your exterior AC unit.

There are several key maintenance tasks you should prioritize to ensure maximum performance and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s a good idea to check your outdoor AC unit regularly and get rid of any debris such as leaves, twigs 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 impede efficient heat exchange or airflow.

Scheduled air conditioning maintenance not only enhances 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 plan of action that can greatly benefit your entire HVAC system in the long run.