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

While it may seem like a smart idea, in reality there are multiple reasons why you shouldn’t cover your AC unit in the winter. In addition to not being necessary, covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment can even cause problems.

Here, the experts at Hix Air Conditioning Service, Inc. 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 can Handle Snow

Exterior AC units are designed to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the wintertime. These units are built with sturdy materials and hardware 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 manufactured to protect the internal parts from moisture and debris.

2. Covering Your Air Conditioner Can Cause Mold

One of the reasons you should not cover your outdoor air conditioning equipment in the cold months is because doing so can trap moisture—which is the opposite of 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 smell, but they can also create health risks, especially for household residents with respiratory issues or allergies. Plus, the excess moisture can corrode the internal components of the AC unit.

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

People 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 crash for the winter months. For many critters, a covered air conditioner is the perfect winter dwelling.

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats often make homes inside covered air conditioners. Animals residing in a covered air conditioning unit can cause many problems. Rats can chew through wires, insulation and other parts, causing damage that may require pricey repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to create a warm and comfortable place to get out of the cold weather can obstruct airflow and ventilation, decreasing the efficiency of the unit and potentially causing it to overheat. Moreover, animal waste can result in unsanitary conditions and potent odors.

Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps discourage creatures, because an uncovered AC gives them less shelter from the elements than a covered unit. That’s better for your cooling system—and leaves you with less mess to pick up and things to repair once the snow melts.

4. Covering Your Air Conditioner Restricts Airflow

Another reason you shouldn'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 enables the unit to cool properly. When airflow is severely limited, the system has to work harder to reach the desired temperature, leading to increased energy consumption and strain on the components.

In addition, if you turn on your air conditioning 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 lack of correct airflow could cause the compressor to overheat, resulting in its failure or damage.  That’s why it is necessary to ensure the outdoor unit has no obstructions and is not covered to maintain the best possible airflow.

5. AC Maintenance Works Better Than Covering Your Air Conditioner

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

There are a number of key maintenance projects you should prioritize to ensure optimal function and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s wise to check your outdoor AC unit regularly and remove any debris such as leaves, twigs and dirt to promote proper airflow. Second, check and clean the coils, fins and filters to make sure you don't see any dirt and dust buildup that would hinder successful 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 approach that can substantially benefit your entire HVAC system in the long run.