As the sweltering summer heat starts to fade and the relief of fall starts to settle in, residents of Naples start preparing their homes and yards for the winter. For many, that leads to the question of whether they should cover their outdoor air conditioner for the winter.

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

Here, the specialists at Speedy 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 can Handle Snow

Outdoor AC units are built 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 specially developed 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 shouldn’t cover your AC unit 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 trapping moisture inside the unit produces the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to thrive.

Mold and mildew not only have an undesirable odor, but they can also present health risks, especially for individuals 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 make sure the unit has proper drainage and keep the area around the unit cleared of debris, allowing for efficient airflow and preventing moisture buildup.

3. A Covered Air Conditioner Can Host Animals

Human beings 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 wintry months. For many critters, a covered air conditioner is an awesome winter refuge.

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats frequently make winter dens inside covered air conditioners. Animals living in a covered air conditioner can cause numerous problems. Rodents can chew through wires, insulation and other parts, causing damage that may require costly repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to create a warm and comfortable bed can block 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 discourage wildlife, because an uncovered AC offers less shelter from chilly temperatures than a covered unit. That’s better for your cooling system—and leaves you with less mess to throw away and things to repair once the snow melts.

4. An AC Cover Restricts Airflow

Another reason you shouldn't cover your air conditioning equipment in the winter is because a cover restricts airflow through the unit. Adequate airflow is essential for the AC system because it assists heat exchange and permits the unit to cool properly. When airflow is constrained, the system has to work harder to reach the desired temperature, resulting in increased energy consumption and strain on the components.

In addition, if you run your air conditioning without noticing that the outdoor unit is covered or because you simply forgot, it could result in a range of problems. One issue is that the absence of correct airflow could cause the compressor to overheat, resulting in its failure or damage.  That’s why it is vital to ensure the outdoor unit is free from blockages 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 numerous key maintenance activities you should prioritize to ensure optimal performance 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 allow proper airflow. Second, examine and clean the coils, fins and filters to make sure they are free from dirt and dust buildup that would hinder effective heat exchange or airflow.

Regular air conditioning maintenance not only improves 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 approach that can greatly benefit your entire HVAC system in the long run.