As the sweltering summer sunshine starts to fade and the refreshingly cool weather of fall starts to settle in, residents of Bend start preparing their homes and yards for the wintertime. For many, that leads to the question of whether they should cover their exterior AC for the winter.

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

Here, the professionals at Tri County Climate Control LLC 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. Snow won't Hurt Your AC

Exterior AC units are built to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the winter season. These machines are built with durable 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 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 definitely not 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 thrive.

Mold and mildew not only have a bad aroma, but they can also create health risks, especially for household residents with respiratory issues or allergies. Also, the excess moisture can corrode the internal components of the AC unit.

As an alternative to covering the unit, instead ensure proper drainage and keep the area around the unit clear of debris, allowing for efficient airflow and preventing moisture buildup.

3. Covered AC Systems Can Host Animals

You and your family aren’t the only ones who prepare for winter. Animals that live around your home are also searching for a warm, cozy place to live for the cold months. For many animals, a covered air conditioner is the perfect winter home.

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats often make winter dens inside covered air conditioners. Animals dwelling in a covered air conditioner can cause many problems. Rats can chew through wires, insulation and other components, causing damage that may require costly repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to construct 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 waste can result in unsanitary conditions and potent odors.

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

4. An AC Cover Restricts Airflow

Another reason not to cover your AC unit in the winter is because a cover restricts airflow through the unit. Proper airflow is vital for the AC system because it facilitates heat exchange and permits 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 use your AC 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, leading to its failure or damage.  That’s why it is necessary to ensure the outdoor unit is free from barriers 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 cooling system than to cover your outside 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 wise to check your outdoor AC unit regularly and pull out 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 impede efficient heat exchange or airflow.

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