As the sweltering summer sun starts to fade and the relief of fall starts to settle in, residents of Temple/Belton start preparing their homes and yards for the wintertime. For many, that leads to the question of whether they ought to cover their outside air conditioner for the winter.

While it may seem like a great idea, the truth is there are multiple reasons why you shouldn’t cover your AC unit in the winter. Along with not being necessary, covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment can sometimes cause problems.

Here, the specialists at Bell Air Conditioning 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

Outdoor AC units are built to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the winter season. 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 constructed to resist corrosion, and the housing is crafted to protect the internal components from moisture and debris.

2. Covered AC Systems may Encourage Mold Growth

One of the reasons you shouldn’t cover your outdoor air conditioning equipment in the winter 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 flourish.

Mold and mildew not only have an undesirable smell, but they can also create health risks, especially for individuals with respiratory issues or allergies. Plus, the excess moisture can corrode the internal components of the AC unit.

Instead of 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 Attract Animals

Human beings aren’t the only ones who prepare for winter. Animals that live around your home are also looking for a warm, cozy place to crash for the winter months. For many animals, a covered air conditioner is an ideal winter refuge.

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats frequently make nests inside covered air conditioners. Animals dwelling in a covered air conditioning unit can cause several 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 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 dissuade animals, 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 throw away and things to repair when winter is over.

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 essential for the AC system because it assists heat exchange and permits the unit to cool effectively. When airflow is constrained, the system has to work harder to achieve the desired temperature, causing increased energy consumption and strain on the components.

In addition, if you run your air conditioning 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 shortage of appropriate airflow could cause the compressor to overheat, causing its failure or damage.  That’s why it is essential to ensure the outdoor unit is free from blockages and is not covered to maintain maximum airflow.

5. AC Maintenance Offers More Benefits Than Covering Your Air Conditioner

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

There are numerous key maintenance projects you should prioritize to ensure optimal performance and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s smart to check your outdoor AC unit regularly and remove any debris such as leaves, sticks and dirt to allow 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.

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