As the scorching summer sun starts to fade and the refreshingly cool weather of fall starts to settle in, residents of Winnipeg start preparing their homes and yards for the winter. For many, that leads to the question of whether they should cover their exterior air conditioner for the winter.

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

Here, the professionals at Kirkfield Heating & 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 Unit Isn’t Damaged by Snow

Outdoor AC units are designed to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the winter. These machines 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 designed to protect the internal components from moisture and debris.

2. Covering Your Air Conditioner Can Cause Mold

One of the reasons you shouldn’t cover your air conditioner 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 allowing moisture to collect inside the unit creates the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to spread.

Mold and mildew not only have a bad 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.

Instead of covering the unit, instead make sure the unit has proper drainage and keep the area around the unit clean 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 prepare 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 the perfect winter refuge.

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats frequently make homes inside covered air conditioners. Animals living in a covered air conditioner can cause many problems. Rats can chew through wires, insulation and other parts, causing damage that may require expensive repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to create a warm and comfortable nest can block airflow and ventilation, decreasing the efficiency of the unit and potentially causing it to overheat. In addition, animal droppings can result in unsanitary conditions and bad odors.

Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps dissuade creatures, because an uncovered AC provides less shelter from the elements than a covered unit. That’s better for your AC—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 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 permits the unit to cool efficiently. When airflow is constrained, the system has to work harder to achieve the desired temperature, causing increased 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, resulting in its failure or damage.  That’s why it is essential to ensure the outdoor unit is free from obstructions 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 several key maintenance activities you should prioritize to ensure the best possible operation and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s wise to check your outdoor AC unit regularly and remove any debris such as leaves, small branches and dirt to promote 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 efficient 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 protects against 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.