As the scorching summer heat starts to fade and the relief of fall starts to settle in, residents of Wisconsin Rapids start preparing their homes and yards for the winter. For many, that leads to the question of whether they need to cover their outside air conditioning unit for the winter.

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

Here, the professionals at Rapids Sheet Metal Works 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 can Handle Snow

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

2. Covering Your Air Conditioner Can Cause Mold

One of the reasons you should avoid covering 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 sealing moisture inside the unit generates the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to thrive.

Mold and mildew not only have an undesirable odor, but they can also create health risks, especially for individuals with respiratory issues or allergies. Also, the excess 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 cleared of debris, allowing for efficient airflow and preventing moisture buildup.

3. Your Covered Air Conditioning Unit Can Host Animals

People aren’t the only ones who make plans 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 winter dens inside covered air conditioners. Animals dwelling in a covered AC unit can cause many problems. Mice can chew through wires, insulation and other components, causing damage that may require costly repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to create a warm and comfortable nest can impair airflow and ventilation, lowering the efficiency of the appliance and potentially causing it to overheat. Additionally, animal waste can result in unsanitary conditions and bad odors.

Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps dissuade wildlife, because an uncovered AC provides less shelter from chilly temperatures than a covered unit. That’s better for your cooling system—and leaves you with less mess to clean up and things to repair in the spring.

4. An AC Cover Restricts Airflow

Another reason not to cover your air conditioner in the winter is because a cover blocks airflow through the unit. Proper airflow is crucial for the AC system because it assists heat exchange and permits the unit to cool effectively. 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 use your AC without realizing 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 proper airflow could cause the compressor to overheat, leading to its failure or damage.  That’s why it is necessary to ensure the outdoor unit is always cleared of any barriers and is not covered to maintain the best possible airflow.

5. AC Maintenance Works Better Than Covering Your Air Conditioner

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

There are a number of key maintenance projects you should prioritize to ensure optimal performance and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s smart to look at your outdoor AC unit regularly and pull out any debris such as leaves, twigs and dirt to maintain 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 hinder effective heat exchange or airflow.

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