As the hot summer sun starts to fade and the refreshingly cool weather of fall starts to settle in, residents of Pocatello 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 conditioner for the winter.

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

Here, the professionals at Vogts 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 can Handle Snow

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

2. Covering Your Air Conditioner Can Cause 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 definitely not 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 an undesirable aroma, but they can also create health risks, especially for individuals with respiratory issues or allergies. Also, the unwanted moisture can corrode the internal components of the AC unit.

Instead of 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 Attract Animals

You and your family aren’t the only ones who prepare for winter. Animals that live around your home are also looking for a warm, cozy place to hide out for the wintry months. For many animals, a covered air conditioner is an awesome winter dwelling.

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats frequently make nests inside covered air conditioners. Animals residing in a covered air conditioning unit can cause numerous problems. Mice can chew through wires, insulation and other components, causing damage that may require costly repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to construct a warm and comfortable nest can impair airflow and ventilation, decreasing the efficiency of the unit and potentially causing it to overheat. Additionally, animal excrement can result in unsanitary conditions and foul odors.

Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps deter wildlife, because an uncovered AC offers less shelter from cold weather than a covered unit. That’s better for your AC—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 blocks airflow through the unit. Proper airflow is crucial for the AC system because it facilitates heat exchange and enables the unit to cool efficiently. When airflow is constrained, the system has to work harder to reach the desired temperature, causing 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 lack 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 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 air conditioner than to cover your outside AC unit.

There are several key maintenance projects you should prioritize to ensure maximum performance and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s a good idea to look at your outdoor AC unit regularly and pull out any debris such as leaves, sticks and dirt to allow proper airflow. Second, check and clean the coils, fins and filters to make sure they are free from dirt and dust buildup that would prevent efficient 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, committing time and effort into routine air conditioning maintenance is a proactive strategy that can significantly benefit your entire HVAC system in the long run.