As the sweltering summer heat starts to fade and the relief of fall starts to settle in, residents of Yukon start preparing their homes and yards for the winter. For many, that leads to the question of whether they ought to cover their exterior air conditioner for the winter.

While it may seem like a smart idea, the truth is there are a number of reasons why you shouldn’t cover your AC unit in the winter. In addition to not being necessary, covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment can actually cause problems.

Here, the professionals at Comfort Concepts Heating & Air Conditioning share five reasons why covering your air conditioning equipment doesn’t need to be on your fall to-do list and what you should do instead.

1. Your AC can Handle Snow

Outside AC units are supposed to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the winter season. These systems are built with durable materials and hardware 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 AC unit in the wintertime is because doing so can trap moisture—which is definitely not what you want in your outdoor unit. That’s because allowing moisture to collect inside the unit produces the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to flourish.

Mold and mildew not only have a bad odor, but they can also pose health risks, especially for individuals with respiratory issues or allergies. Additionally, the excess moisture can corrode the internal components of the AC unit.

Rather than covering the unit, instead ensure 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 Attract Animals

Human beings 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 live for the wintry months. For many animals, a covered air conditioner is the perfect winter refuge.

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats often make homes inside covered air conditioners. Animals dwelling in a covered air conditioning unit can cause several problems. Rats can chew through wires, insulation and other parts, causing damage that may require pricey repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to create a warm and comfortable bed can obstruct airflow and ventilation, limiting the efficiency of the unit 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 animals, because an uncovered AC offers less shelter from cold weather than a covered unit. That’s better for your air conditioner—and leaves you with less mess to clean up and things to repair in the spring.

4. A Winter Cover for AC Units Restricts Airflow

Another reason it’s better that you don’t cover your air conditioning equipment in the winter is because a cover blocks airflow through the unit. Adequate airflow is essential for the AC system because it assists heat exchange and allows the unit to cool efficiently. When airflow is reduced, the system has to work harder to achieve the desired temperature, causing additional energy consumption and strain on the components.

In addition, if you turn on your AC without knowing that the outdoor unit is covered or because you simply forgot, it could result in a range of problems. One issue is that the shortage of correct airflow could cause the compressor to overheat, causing its failure or damage.  That’s why it is necessary to ensure the outdoor unit is free from blockages and is not covered to maintain maximum 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 conditioner than to cover your exterior AC unit.

There are several key maintenance projects 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 get rid of any debris such as leaves, twigs and dirt to allow proper airflow. Second, inspect and clean the coils, fins and filters to make sure they are free from dirt and dust buildup that would prevent effective 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 avoids costly repairs. Rather than using a cover, committing time and effort into routine air conditioning maintenance is a proactive strategy that can significantly benefit your entire HVAC system in the long run.