As the hot summer sun starts to fade and the cooler temperatures of fall starts to settle in, residents of Cedar Rapids 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 AC 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. Along with not being necessary, covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment can actually cause problems.

Here, the professionals at Ilten's 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 supposed to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the wintertime. 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 constructed to resist corrosion, and the housing is manufactured to protect the internal parts from moisture and debris.

2. Covered AC Systems may Encourage Mold Growth

One of the reasons you shouldn’t cover your AC unit in the winter 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 flourish.

Mold and mildew not only have a bad aroma, but they can also present health risks, especially for people with respiratory issues or allergies. Plus, 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 free of debris, allowing for efficient airflow and preventing moisture buildup.

3. Covered AC Systems Can Attract Animals

People aren’t the only ones who get ready for winter. Animals that live around your home are also searching for a warm, cozy place to hide out for the winter months. For many creatures, a covered air conditioner is the perfect winter refuge.

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats commonly make nests inside covered air conditioners. Animals residing in a covered AC unit can cause several problems. Rodents 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 nest can obstruct airflow and ventilation, lowering the efficiency of the AC and potentially causing it to overheat. In addition, animal waste can result in unsanitary conditions and bad odors.

Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps dissuade wildlife, because an uncovered AC offers less shelter from cold weather than a covered unit. That’s better for your cooling system—and leaves you with less mess to throw away and things to repair once the snow melts.

4. Covering Your Air Conditioner Restricts Airflow

Another reason not to cover your air conditioner in the winter is because a cover limits airflow through the unit. Adequate airflow is vital for the AC system because it helps with heat exchange and allows the unit to cool efficiently. When airflow is constrained, the system has to work harder to reach the desired temperature, resulting in increased energy consumption and strain on the components.

In addition, if you run your air conditioner without noticing that the outdoor unit is covered or because you simply forgot, it could result in a range of problems. One issue is that the absence of proper airflow could cause the compressor to overheat, resulting in 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 optimal airflow.

5. AC Maintenance Is More Effective Than Covering Your Air Conditioner

The bottom line is, it's a 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 function and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s smart to examine your outdoor AC unit regularly and clear any debris such as leaves, twigs and dirt to allow proper airflow. Second, inspect 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.

Routine air conditioning maintenance not only improves efficiency, but it also helps extend the unit's life span, reduces energy consumption and prevents 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.