As the hot summer sunshine starts to fade and the relief of fall starts to settle in, residents of Rio Grande Valley 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 smart idea, the truth is there are multiple 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 professionals at Cytech Heating & Cooling L.C. 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

Outside AC units are built to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the winter season. 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 engineered to resist corrosion, and the housing is crafted to protect the internal parts from moisture and debris.

2. Covered AC Systems may Encourage Mold Growth

One of the reasons you should avoid covering your AC unit in the winter is because doing so can trap moisture—which is the opposite of what you want in your outdoor unit. That’s because allowing moisture to collect inside the unit generates the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to thrive.

Mold and mildew not only have a bad odor, but they can also present health risks, especially for household residents with respiratory issues or allergies. Plus, the excess 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 clear of debris, allowing for efficient airflow and preventing moisture buildup.

3. Covered AC Systems Can Host Animals

People aren’t the only ones who prepare for winter. Animals that live around your home are also searching for a warm, cozy place to hide out for the winter months. For many animals, a covered air conditioner is an awesome winter dwelling.

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats frequently make nests inside covered air conditioners. Animals living in a covered air conditioning unit can cause numerous problems. Rats can chew through wires, insulation and other components, causing damage that may require costly repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to construct a warm and comfortable nest can block airflow and ventilation, reducing the efficiency of the appliance and potentially causing it to overheat. Additionally, animal waste can result in unsanitary conditions and bad odors.

Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps discourage creatures, because an uncovered AC gives them less shelter from cold weather than a covered unit. That’s better for your air conditioner—and leaves you with less mess to pick up and things to repair in the spring.

4. A Winter Cover for AC Units Restricts Airflow

Another reason not to cover your air conditioning equipment in the winter is because a cover blocks airflow through the unit. Adequate airflow is crucial for the AC system because it helps with heat exchange and enables the unit to cool effectively. When airflow is restricted, the system has to work harder to reach the desired temperature, causing additional energy consumption and strain on the components.

In addition, if you use your AC 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 appropriate airflow could cause the compressor to overheat, resulting in its failure or damage.  That’s why it is necessary to ensure the outdoor unit is always cleared of any barriers and is not covered to maintain maximum airflow.

5. AC Maintenance Works Better Than Covering Your Air Conditioner

The bottom line is, it's much more effective to do a little maintenance for your air conditioner than to cover your outdoor AC unit.

There are several key maintenance activities you should prioritize to ensure maximum performance and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s smart to inspect your outdoor AC unit regularly and pull out any debris such as leaves, sticks and dirt to allow proper airflow. Second, examine 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, lowers energy consumption and avoids costly repairs. Rather than using a cover, investing time and effort into routine air conditioning maintenance is a proactive strategy that can greatly benefit your entire HVAC system in the long run.