As the scorching summer heat starts to fade and the refreshingly cool weather of fall starts to settle in, residents of Milwaukee start preparing their homes and yards for the wintertime. For many, that leads to the question of whether they ought to cover their exterior air conditioning unit for the winter.

While it may seem like a good idea, the fact is there are many reasons why you shouldn’t cover your AC unit in the winter. In addition to not being something you need to do, covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment can sometimes cause problems.

Here, the specialists at Done Right Air 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. Snow won’t Hurt Your AC

Outdoor AC units are built to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the winter. These units are built with durable materials and hardware that can handle the outdoor elements without damage. The coils and fins of the unit are constructed to resist corrosion, and the housing is designed to protect the internal elements from moisture and debris.

2. Covered AC Systems may Encourage Mold Growth

One of the reasons you should avoid covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment 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 allowing moisture to collect inside the unit generates the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to thrive.

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

Rather than covering the unit, instead make sure the unit has proper drainage and keep the area around the unit clean 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 make plans for winter. Animals that live around your home are also hunting for a warm, cozy place to hide out for the winter months. For many animals, a covered air conditioner is an awesome winter home.

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats frequently make winter dens inside covered air conditioners. Animals residing in a covered air conditioning unit can cause many problems. Rodents can chew through wires, insulation and other components, causing damage that may require expensive repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to construct a warm and comfortable bed can obstruct airflow and ventilation, decreasing the efficiency of the AC and potentially causing it to overheat. Moreover, animal waste can result in unsanitary conditions and foul odors.

Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps deter wildlife, because an uncovered AC offers less shelter from chilly temperatures than a covered unit. That’s better for your air conditioner—and leaves you with less mess to pick up and things to repair when winter is over.

4. An AC Cover Restricts Airflow

Another reason it’s better that you don’t cover your AC unit in the winter is because a cover restricts airflow through the unit. Suitable airflow is essential for the AC system because it helps with heat exchange and permits the unit to cool efficiently. When airflow is restricted, the system has to work harder to maintain the desired temperature, causing increased energy consumption and strain on the components.

In addition, if you turn on your AC 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, leading to its failure or damage.  That’s why it is vital to ensure the outdoor unit is always cleared of any 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 a number of key maintenance tasks you should prioritize to ensure the best possible function and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s a good idea to check your outdoor AC unit regularly and remove any debris such as leaves, small branches and dirt to promote proper airflow. Second, check and clean the coils, fins and filters to make sure there isn’t any dirt and dust buildup that would hinder effective heat exchange or airflow.

Regular air conditioning maintenance not only improves efficiency, but it also helps extend the unit’s life span, decreases energy consumption and avoids costly repairs. Rather than using a cover, putting time and effort into routine air conditioning maintenance is a proactive approach that can significantly benefit your entire HVAC system in the long run.