As the sweltering summer sunshine starts to fade and the refreshingly cool weather of fall starts to settle in, residents of Los Angeles start preparing their homes and yards for the the upcoming cold weather. For many, that leads to the question of whether they ought to cover their outdoor 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. On top of not being necessary, covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment can sometimes cause problems.

Here, the experts at AZ Air Conditioning and Heating share five reasons why covering your air conditioner 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 designed to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the winter. 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 engineered to resist corrosion, and the housing is manufactured to protect the internal parts from moisture and debris.

2. Covering Your Air Conditioner Can Cause Mold

One of the reasons you should not cover your air conditioner in the cold months is because doing so can trap moisture—which is the opposite of what you want in your outdoor unit. That’s because sealing moisture inside the unit creates the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to flourish.

Mold and mildew not only have an undesirable aroma, but they can also pose health risks, especially for household residents with respiratory issues or allergies. Additionally, the trapped 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 cleared of debris, allowing for efficient airflow and preventing moisture buildup.

3. Covered AC Systems Can Host Animals

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

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats commonly make nests inside covered air conditioners. Animals residing in a covered AC unit can cause numerous problems. Mice 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 home can obstruct airflow and ventilation, reducing the efficiency of the unit and potentially causing it to overheat. Additionally, animal excrement can result in unsanitary conditions and foul odors.

Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps deter creatures, because an uncovered AC offers less shelter from the elements than a covered unit. That’s better for your cooling system—and leaves you with less mess to pick up and things to repair once the snow melts.

4. An AC Cover Restricts Airflow

Another reason not to cover your air conditioner in the winter is because a cover blocks airflow through the unit. Proper airflow is vital for the AC system because it facilitates heat exchange and allows the unit to cool efficiently. When airflow is constrained, the system has to work harder to reach the desired temperature, leading to greater energy consumption and strain on the components.

In addition, if you turn on your AC 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 correct airflow could cause the compressor to overheat, causing its failure or damage.  That’s why it is necessary to ensure the outdoor unit has no 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 exterior AC unit.

There are several key maintenance tasks you should prioritize to ensure optimal operation and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s wise to inspect your outdoor AC unit regularly and pull out any debris such as leaves, twigs and dirt to maintain proper airflow. Second, examine and clean the coils, fins and filters to make sure you don't see any dirt and dust buildup that would hinder successful 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 prevents costly repairs. Rather than using a cover, putting time and effort into routine air conditioning maintenance is a proactive approach that can significantly benefit your entire HVAC system in the long run.