As the scorching summer heat starts to fade and the cooler temperatures of fall starts to settle in, residents of Moline 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, the reality is there are many 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 even cause problems.

Here, the professionals at Freed Heating & Air Conditioning 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

Exterior AC units are built to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the winter. 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 engineered to resist corrosion, and the housing is designed to protect the internal elements 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 wintertime is because doing so can trap moisture—which is not at all what you want in your outdoor unit. That’s because trapping moisture inside the unit creates the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to thrive.

Mold and mildew not only have an undesirable smell, but they can also pose health risks, especially for individuals with respiratory issues or allergies. Plus, 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 cleared of debris, allowing for efficient airflow and preventing moisture buildup.

3. A Covered Air Conditioner Can Host Animals

Humans aren’t the only ones who get ready for winter. Animals that live around your home are also looking for a warm, cozy place to crash for the wintry months. For many animals, a covered air conditioner is the perfect winter home.

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats frequently make nests inside covered air conditioners. Animals dwelling in a covered air conditioner 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 make themselves a warm and comfortable home can obstruct airflow and ventilation, limiting 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 clean up and things to repair when winter is over.

4. A Winter Cover for AC Units Restricts Airflow

Another reason it's better that you don't cover your air conditioner in the winter is because a cover restricts airflow through the unit. Proper 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, resulting in additional 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 absence of correct airflow could cause the compressor to overheat, resulting in its failure or damage.  That’s why it is vital to ensure the outdoor unit has no barriers 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 whole lot more effective to do a little maintenance for your air conditioning unit than to cover your exterior AC unit.

There are numerous key maintenance activities you should prioritize to ensure the best possible operation and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s wise to look at your outdoor AC unit regularly and get rid of any debris such as leaves, sticks and dirt to maintain proper airflow. Second, inspect 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, 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 approach that can greatly benefit your entire HVAC system in the long run.