As the hot summer sunshine starts to fade and the cooler temperatures of fall starts to settle in, residents of Omaha start preparing their homes and yards for the wintertime. For many, that leads to the question of whether they need to cover their exterior air conditioning unit for the winter.

While it may seem like a good idea, the truth is there are a number of reasons why you shouldn’t cover your AC unit in the winter. In addition to not being necessary, covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment can actually cause problems.

Here, the professionals at The Frazier Company 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 built to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the winter season. These systems 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 designed to protect the internal elements from moisture and debris.

2. Covered AC Systems may Encourage Mold Growth

One of the reasons you should not cover your outdoor air conditioning equipment 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 sealing moisture inside the unit produces the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to spread.

Mold and mildew not only have an unpleasant odor, but they can also present health risks, especially for household residents with respiratory issues or allergies. Also, the excess moisture can corrode the internal components of the AC unit.

Instead of 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. A Covered Air Conditioner Can Host Animals

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

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 pricey repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to create a warm and comfortable bed can impair airflow and ventilation, decreasing the efficiency of the appliance and potentially causing it to overheat. Additionally, animal droppings can result in unsanitary conditions and foul odors.

Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps dissuade animals, 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 pick up and things to repair in the spring.

4. Covering Your Air Conditioner Restricts Airflow

Another reason it's better that you don't cover your air conditioner in the winter is because a cover limits airflow through the unit. Adequate airflow is essential for the AC system because it helps with heat exchange and enables the unit to cool properly. When airflow is restricted, the system has to work harder to maintain the desired temperature, resulting in 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 shortage of correct airflow could cause the compressor to overheat, leading to its failure or damage.  That’s why it is essential to ensure the outdoor unit is always cleared of any barriers and is not covered to maintain the best possible 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 conditioning unit than to cover your exterior AC unit.

There are a number of key maintenance tasks you should prioritize to ensure maximum function and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s smart to look at your outdoor AC unit regularly and pull out 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 there isn't any dirt and dust buildup that would prevent successful heat exchange or airflow.

Routine 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, putting time and effort into routine air conditioning maintenance is a proactive strategy that can greatly benefit your entire HVAC system in the long run.