As the sweltering summer sun starts to fade and the cooler temperatures of fall starts to settle in, residents of Menomonie and western Wisconsin start preparing their homes and yards for the winter. For many, that leads to the question of whether they need to cover their outdoor AC for the winter.

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

Here, the professionals at Halverson Brothers Inc 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. Your AC Unit Isn’t Damaged by Snow

Exterior AC units are built to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the winter season. These systems are built with sturdy 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 elements from moisture and debris.

2. Covering AC Systems can Encourage Mold

One of the reasons you shouldn’t cover your air conditioner in the wintertime 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 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. 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

You and your family 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 creatures, a covered air conditioner is the perfect winter refuge.

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats commonly make homes inside covered air conditioners. Animals living in a covered AC unit can cause several problems. Mice can chew through wires, insulation and other parts, causing damage that may require costly repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to create a warm and comfortable home can impair 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 foul odors.

Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps deter creatures, because an uncovered AC gives them less shelter from the elements than a covered unit. That’s better for your AC—and leaves you with less mess to clean up and things to repair when winter is over.

4. Covering Your Air Conditioner 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. Adequate airflow is crucial for the AC system because it helps with heat exchange and permits the unit to cool effectively. When airflow is restricted, 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 exterior unit is covered or because you simply forgot, it could result in a range of problems. One issue is that the lack of proper airflow could cause the compressor to overheat, causing its failure or damage.  That’s why it is crucial to ensure the outdoor unit is always cleared of any obstructions 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 a lot more effective to do a little maintenance for your air conditioning unit than to cover your outside AC unit.

There are a number of key maintenance projects you should prioritize to ensure the best possible performance and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s wise to look at your outdoor AC unit regularly and get rid of any debris such as leaves, sticks and dirt to maintain proper airflow. Second, examine and clean the coils, fins and filters to make sure they are free from dirt and dust buildup that would hinder successful heat exchange or airflow.

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