As the scorching summer heat starts to fade and the refreshingly cool weather of fall starts to settle in, residents of Milledgeville and Middle Georgia start preparing their homes and yards for the the upcoming cold weather. For many, that leads to the question of whether they should cover their outside AC for the winter.

While it may seem like a great idea, in reality there are several reasons why you shouldn’t cover your AC unit in the winter. In addition to not being needed, covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment can even cause problems.

Here, the specialists at Air Concepts of Middle Georgia 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. Your AC can Handle Snow

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 specially developed to resist corrosion, and the housing is manufactured to protect the internal components from moisture and debris.

2. Covering AC Systems can Encourage Mold

One of the reasons you should avoid covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment in the cold months 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 an undesirable odor, but they can also pose health risks, especially for household residents with respiratory issues or allergies. Additionally, the trapped moisture can corrode the internal components of the AC unit.

Instead of 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. Covered AC Systems Can Attract Animals

Humans aren’t the only ones who prepare for winter. Animals that live around your home are also looking for a warm, cozy place to live for the cold months. For many creatures, a covered air conditioner is an ideal winter dwelling.

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats often make homes inside covered air conditioners. Animals dwelling in a covered AC unit can cause several problems. Mice can chew through wires, insulation and other parts, causing damage that may require expensive repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to make themselves a warm and comfortable place to get out of the cold weather can impair airflow and ventilation, lowering the efficiency of the appliance and potentially causing it to overheat. Moreover, animal droppings can result in unsanitary conditions and foul odors.

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

4. A Winter Cover for AC Units Restricts Airflow

Another reason you shouldn't cover your AC unit in the winter is because a cover limits airflow through the unit. Suitable airflow is crucial for the AC system because it helps with heat exchange and allows the unit to cool effectively. When airflow is reduced, the system has to work harder to maintain the desired temperature, leading to increased energy consumption and strain on the components.

In addition, if you run your air conditioning without realizing that the outdoor unit is covered or because you simply forgot, it could result in a range of problems. One issue is that the lack of appropriate airflow could cause the compressor to overheat, leading to its failure or damage.  That’s why it is essential to ensure the outdoor unit is always cleared of any obstructions and is not covered to maintain maximum airflow.

5. AC Maintenance Works Better Than Covering Your Air Conditioner

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

There are several key maintenance activities you should prioritize to ensure maximum function and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s a good idea to look at your outdoor AC unit regularly and get rid of any debris such as leaves, twigs and dirt to maintain proper airflow. Second, check and clean the coils, fins and filters to make sure they are free from dirt and dust buildup that would prevent successful heat exchange or airflow.

Scheduled 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, committing time and effort into routine air conditioning maintenance is a proactive plan of action that can greatly benefit your entire HVAC system in the long run.