As the scorching summer sun starts to fade and the relief of fall starts to settle in, residents of McKinney and Frisco 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 good idea, the reality is there are multiple reasons why you shouldn’t cover your AC unit in the winter. On top of not being necessary, covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment can even cause problems.

Here, the specialists at Bell Mechanical 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. Your AC can Handle Snow

Outdoor AC units are designed to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the winter season. These systems are built with solid 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 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 not at all what you want in your outdoor unit. That’s because sealing moisture inside the unit produces the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to spread.

Mold and mildew not only have an unpleasant aroma, but they can also create health risks, especially for people with respiratory issues or allergies. Plus, the unwanted moisture can corrode the internal components of the AC unit.

Rather than 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. Covered AC Systems Can Host 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 creatures, a covered air conditioner is an ideal winter refuge.

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats frequently make nests inside covered air conditioners. Animals residing in a covered air conditioning unit can cause several problems. Rodents can chew through wires, insulation and other components, causing damage that may require pricey repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to construct a warm and comfortable bed can block airflow and ventilation, decreasing the efficiency of the AC and potentially causing it to overheat. Moreover, 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 cold weather than a covered unit. That’s better for your air conditioner—and leaves you with less mess to pick up and things to repair when winter is over.

4. Covering Your Air Conditioner Restricts Airflow

Another reason not to cover your AC unit in the winter is because a cover limits airflow through the unit. Suitable airflow is vital 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 maintain the desired temperature, leading to greater energy consumption and strain on the components.

In addition, if you run your air conditioning 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 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 always cleared of any blockages and is not covered to maintain maximum 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 projects you should prioritize to ensure the best possible operation and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s a good idea to check your outdoor AC unit regularly and remove any debris such as leaves, sticks and dirt to maintain proper airflow. Second, examine 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.

Routine air conditioning maintenance not only improves efficiency, but it also helps extend the unit's life span, reduces energy consumption and avoids costly repairs. Rather than using a cover, putting time and effort into routine air conditioning maintenance is a proactive plan of action that can substantially benefit your entire HVAC system in the long run.