As the hot summer sun starts to fade and the cooler temperatures of fall starts to settle in, residents of Newark start preparing their homes and yards for the the upcoming cold weather. For many, that leads to the question of whether they ought to cover their exterior air conditioner for the winter.

While it may seem like a great idea, in reality there are many reasons why you shouldn’t cover your AC unit in the winter. On top of not being needed, covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment can sometimes cause problems.

Here, the experts at Luikart Heating & Cooling share five reasons why covering your air conditioner 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

Outside AC units are built to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the winter. These machines are built with sturdy materials and parts 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 crafted to protect the internal elements from moisture and debris.

2. Covering AC Systems can Encourage Mold

One of the reasons you shouldn’t cover your outdoor air conditioning equipment 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 trapping moisture inside the unit produces the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to spread.

Mold and mildew not only have an unpleasant aroma, but they can also create health risks, especially for people with respiratory issues or allergies. Also, the excess 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 free 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 hide out for the winter months. For many creatures, a covered air conditioner is an awesome winter dwelling.

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats frequently make nests inside covered air conditioners. Animals living in a covered air conditioning unit can cause many problems. Rats can chew through wires, insulation and other connections, causing damage that may require expensive repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to create a warm and comfortable bed can obstruct airflow and ventilation, reducing the efficiency of the appliance and potentially causing it to overheat. In addition, animal excrement can result in unsanitary conditions and bad odors.

Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps deter creatures, because an uncovered AC offers less shelter from the elements than a covered unit. That’s better for your air conditioner—and leaves you with less mess to clean up and things to repair in the spring.

4. An AC Cover Restricts Airflow

Another reason you shouldn't cover your air conditioning equipment in the winter is because a cover restricts airflow through the unit. Suitable airflow is crucial for the AC system because it facilitates heat exchange and enables the unit to cool properly. When airflow is severely limited, the system has to work harder to maintain the desired temperature, resulting in greater energy consumption and strain on the components.

In addition, if you turn on your air conditioning without realizing 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, causing its failure or damage.  That’s why it is necessary to ensure the outdoor unit is free from 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 lots more effective to do a little maintenance for your cooling system than to cover your outside AC unit.

There are a number of key maintenance tasks you should prioritize to ensure the best possible performance and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s a good idea to examine your outdoor AC unit regularly and remove any debris such as leaves, sticks and dirt to maintain 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 impede successful heat exchange or airflow.

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