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

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

Here, the specialists at Home Furniture, Plumbing & Heating 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. Snow won't Hurt Your AC

Exterior AC units are designed to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the wintertime. These systems are built with sturdy 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 components from moisture and debris.

2. Covering AC Systems can Encourage Mold

One of the reasons you should not cover your outdoor air conditioning equipment 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 creates the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to spread.

Mold and mildew not only have a bad odor, but they can also create health risks, especially for household residents with respiratory issues or allergies. Also, the unwanted 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. A Covered Air Conditioner 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 an awesome winter dwelling.

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats commonly make homes inside covered air conditioners. Animals living in a covered AC unit can cause many problems. Rodents can chew through wires, insulation and other connections, causing damage that may require expensive repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to construct a warm and comfortable place to get out of the cold weather can impair airflow and ventilation, limiting the efficiency of the unit and potentially causing it to overheat. In addition, animal droppings can result in unsanitary conditions and potent odors.

Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps discourage creatures, because an uncovered AC provides less shelter from the elements 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. 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 restricts airflow through the unit. Suitable airflow is vital for the AC system because it assists heat exchange and permits the unit to cool efficiently. When airflow is severely limited, the system has to work harder to reach the desired temperature, resulting in greater energy consumption and strain on the components.

In addition, if you use your air conditioning without realizing that the outside 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, causing its failure or damage.  That’s why it is crucial to ensure the outdoor unit has no obstructions 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 a lot 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 projects you should prioritize to ensure the best possible performance and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s a good idea to look at your outdoor AC unit regularly and pull out any debris such as leaves, sticks and dirt to promote proper airflow. Second, check and clean the coils, fins and filters to make sure there isn't 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, decreases energy consumption and avoids costly repairs. Rather than using a cover, investing time and effort into routine air conditioning maintenance is a proactive plan of action that can significantly benefit your entire HVAC system in the long run.