As the hot summer sunshine starts to fade and the refreshingly cool weather of fall starts to settle in, residents of Palm Coast 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 exterior AC for the winter.

While it may seem like a great idea, the reality is there are a number of reasons why you shouldn’t cover your AC unit in the winter. Along with not being something you need to do, covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment can actually cause problems.

Here, the professionals at Cooks Air Conditioning and Heating Specialists 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. Snow won't Hurt Your AC

Outside AC units are designed to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the winter. These units 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 components 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 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 creates the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to spread.

Mold and mildew not only have an unpleasant odor, but they can also present health risks, especially for household residents with respiratory issues or allergies. Additionally, the excess 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 free of debris, allowing for efficient airflow and preventing moisture buildup.

3. Your Covered Air Conditioning Unit Can Attract Animals

Human beings 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 live for the winter months. For many creatures, a covered air conditioner is an ideal winter refuge.

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats often make homes inside covered air conditioners. Animals living in a covered AC unit can cause numerous problems. Rodents can chew through wires, insulation and other connections, causing damage that may require expensive repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to construct a warm and comfortable place to get out of the cold weather can impair airflow and ventilation, limiting the efficiency of the AC and potentially causing it to overheat. In addition, animal excrement can result in unsanitary conditions and foul odors.

Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps dissuade creatures, because an uncovered AC provides 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 when winter is over.

4. A Winter Cover for AC Units Restricts Airflow

Another reason you shouldn't cover your air conditioning equipment in the winter is because a cover blocks airflow through the unit. Suitable airflow is vital for the AC system because it facilitates heat exchange and enables the unit to cool efficiently. When airflow is restricted, the system has to work harder to reach the desired temperature, leading to increased energy consumption and strain on the components.

In addition, if you use your air conditioning without noticing that the outside 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, resulting in its failure or damage.  That’s why it is necessary to ensure the outdoor unit has no blockages and is not covered to maintain the best possible airflow.

5. AC Maintenance Offers More Benefits 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 exterior AC unit.

There are a number of key maintenance projects you should prioritize to ensure optimal function and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s a good idea to inspect your outdoor AC unit regularly and clear any debris such as leaves, twigs 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.

Routine air conditioning maintenance not only boosts 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 plan of action that can significantly benefit your entire HVAC system in the long run.