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

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

Here, the specialists at Airmax Long Island 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

Outside AC units are designed to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the winter season. These machines are built with solid materials and hardware 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 components from moisture and debris.

2. Covered AC Systems may Encourage Mold Growth

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 trapping moisture inside the unit produces the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to flourish.

Mold and mildew not only have a bad smell, but they can also create health risks, especially for individuals with respiratory issues or allergies. Also, the excess moisture can corrode the internal components of the AC unit.

As an alternative to covering the unit, instead provide proper drainage and keep the area around the unit free of debris, allowing for efficient airflow and preventing moisture buildup.

3. Your Covered Air Conditioning Unit Can Attract Animals

Human beings aren’t the only ones who get ready for winter. Animals that live around your home are also looking for a warm, cozy place to live for the cold months. For many critters, a covered air conditioner is an ideal winter home.

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats frequently make nests inside covered air conditioners. Animals residing in a covered AC unit can cause many problems. Rats 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 place to get out of the cold weather can block airflow and ventilation, reducing the efficiency of the appliance and potentially causing it to overheat. Moreover, animal droppings can result in unsanitary conditions and potent odors.

Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps deter animals, because an uncovered AC gives them less shelter from chilly temperatures than a covered unit. That’s better for your cooling system—and leaves you with less mess to clean up and things to repair in the spring.

4. A Winter Cover for AC Units 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 allows the unit to cool efficiently. When airflow is constrained, 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 turn on your air conditioning without realizing that the exterior unit is covered or because you simply forgot, it could result in a range of problems. One issue is that the shortage of correct airflow could cause the compressor to overheat, causing its failure or damage.  That’s why it is essential to ensure the outdoor unit has no blockages and is not covered to maintain optimal airflow.

5. AC Maintenance Offers More Benefits Than Covering Your Air Conditioner

The bottom line is, it's a whole lot more effective to do a little maintenance for your cooling system than to cover your outdoor AC unit.

There are numerous key maintenance tasks you should prioritize to ensure maximum operation and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s wise to look at your outdoor AC unit regularly and remove any debris such as leaves, small branches and dirt to promote proper airflow. Second, inspect and clean the coils, fins and filters to make sure there isn't any dirt and dust buildup that would prevent effective heat exchange or airflow.

Regular air conditioning maintenance not only enhances efficiency, but it also helps extend the unit's life span, decreases energy consumption and protects against costly repairs. Rather than using a cover, investing time and effort into routine air conditioning maintenance is a proactive plan of action that can greatly benefit your entire HVAC system in the long run.