As the hot summer sun starts to fade and the relief of fall starts to settle in, residents of Manassas 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 outdoor AC for the winter.

While it may seem like a good idea, in reality there are multiple 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 Air-Right Energy Design 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. Snow won't Hurt Your AC

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

2. Covered AC Systems may Encourage Mold Growth

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 allowing moisture to collect inside the unit creates the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to flourish.

Mold and mildew not only have a bad odor, but they can also create health risks, especially for people 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 make sure the unit has proper drainage and keep the area around the unit clear of debris, allowing for efficient airflow and preventing moisture buildup.

3. Covered AC Systems Can Attract Animals

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

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats often make homes inside covered air conditioners. Animals living in a covered AC unit can cause several problems. Rodents can chew through wires, insulation and other connections, causing damage that may require pricey repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to create a warm and comfortable nest can block airflow and ventilation, reducing the efficiency of the appliance and potentially causing it to overheat. Additionally, animal waste can result in unsanitary conditions and potent odors.

Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps dissuade animals, because an uncovered AC offers less shelter from cold weather than a covered unit. That’s better for your cooling system—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 not to cover your air conditioning equipment in the winter is because a cover limits airflow through the unit. Proper airflow is crucial for the AC system because it assists heat exchange and permits the unit to cool effectively. When airflow is severely limited, the system has to work harder to reach the desired temperature, causing additional energy consumption and strain on the components.

In addition, if you use your AC 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 lack of correct airflow could cause the compressor to overheat, causing its failure or damage.  That’s why it is essential to ensure the outdoor unit has no obstructions and is not covered to maintain optimal airflow.

5. AC Maintenance Works Better Than Covering Your Air Conditioner

The bottom line is, it's a lot more effective to do a little maintenance for your air conditioning unit than to cover your outside AC unit.

There are a number of key maintenance activities you should prioritize to ensure maximum function and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s wise to examine your outdoor AC unit regularly and get rid of any debris such as leaves, twigs and dirt to maintain proper airflow. Second, inspect and clean the coils, fins and filters to make sure there isn't any dirt and dust buildup that would impede efficient heat exchange or airflow.

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