As the hot summer sun starts to fade and the relief of fall starts to settle in, residents of Hudsonville start preparing their homes and yards for the the upcoming cold weather. For many, that leads to the question of whether they need to cover their outside air conditioner for the winter.

While it may seem like a smart idea, the reality is there are many reasons why you shouldn’t cover your AC unit in the winter. Along with not being something you need to do, covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment can sometimes cause problems.

Here, the specialists at West Michigan Heating & Air Conditioning Services 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. Snow won't Hurt Your AC

Outside AC units are supposed to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the winter season. These machines are built with sturdy materials and components 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 crafted to protect the internal parts from moisture and debris.

2. Covered AC Systems may Encourage Mold Growth

One of the reasons you should avoid covering your AC unit 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 trapping moisture inside the unit produces the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to thrive.

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

Rather than covering the unit, instead provide proper drainage and keep the area around the unit free of debris, allowing for efficient airflow and preventing moisture buildup.

3. Your Covered Air Conditioning Unit Can Attract Animals

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

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

Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps discourage wildlife, because an uncovered AC provides less shelter from chilly temperatures than a covered unit. That’s better for your air conditioner—and leaves you with less mess to clean up and things to repair when winter is over.

4. An AC Cover Restricts Airflow

Another reason you shouldn't cover your air conditioner in the winter is because a cover limits airflow through the unit. Proper airflow is vital for the AC system because it helps with heat exchange and enables the unit to cool properly. When airflow is constrained, the system has to work harder to maintain the desired temperature, resulting in greater energy consumption and strain on the components.

In addition, if you run your AC without realizing that the exterior unit is covered or because you simply forgot, it could result in a range of problems. One issue is that the absence of appropriate airflow could cause the compressor to overheat, resulting in 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 optimal airflow.

5. AC Maintenance Is More Effective Than Covering Your Air Conditioner

The bottom line is, it's much more effective to do a little maintenance for your cooling system than to cover your outdoor AC unit.

There are a number of key maintenance tasks you should prioritize to ensure maximum operation and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s wise to inspect your outdoor AC unit regularly and remove any debris such as leaves, small branches 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, lowers energy consumption and prevents costly repairs. Rather than using a cover, committing time and effort into routine air conditioning maintenance is a proactive approach that can greatly benefit your entire HVAC system in the long run.