As the hot summer heat starts to fade and the relief of fall starts to settle in, residents of Bishop start preparing their homes and yards for the wintertime. For many, that leads to the question of whether they need to cover their exterior AC for the winter.

While it may seem like a smart idea, the fact is there are several 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 sometimes cause problems.

Here, the specialists at Bishop 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 Unit Isn’t Damaged by Snow

Outside 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 designed to protect the internal components from moisture and debris.

2. Covering Your Air Conditioner Can Cause Mold

One of the reasons you shouldn’t cover your outdoor air conditioning equipment in the winter is because doing so can trap moisture—which is not at all 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 unpleasant odor, but they can also create health risks, especially for people with respiratory issues or allergies. Additionally, the excess moisture can corrode the internal components of the AC unit.

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

3. A Covered Air Conditioner Can Attract Animals

Humans aren’t the only ones who get ready for winter. Animals that live around your home are also looking for a warm, cozy place to crash for the wintry months. For many animals, a covered air conditioner is an ideal winter refuge.

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats frequently make homes inside covered air conditioners. Animals residing in a covered air conditioning unit can cause numerous problems. Mice can chew through wires, insulation and other connections, causing damage that may require pricey repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to construct a warm and comfortable home can obstruct airflow and ventilation, lowering the efficiency of the unit and potentially causing it to overheat. Moreover, animal excrement can result in unsanitary conditions and foul odors.

Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps dissuade wildlife, 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 once the snow melts.

4. Covering Your Air Conditioner Restricts Airflow

Another reason it's better that you don't cover your air conditioner in the winter is because a cover restricts airflow through the unit. Proper airflow is crucial for the AC system because it assists heat exchange and allows the unit to cool efficiently. When airflow is restricted, the system has to work harder to achieve the desired temperature, resulting in increased energy consumption and strain on the components.

In addition, if you run your air conditioner 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 proper airflow could cause the compressor to overheat, resulting in 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 optimal 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 numerous key maintenance tasks you should prioritize to ensure the best possible performance and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s a good idea to examine your outdoor AC unit regularly and pull out any debris such as leaves, twigs and dirt to promote 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 prevent efficient heat exchange or airflow.

Scheduled air conditioning maintenance not only enhances 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.