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With Thanksgiving just a few days away and summer long behind us, no doubt you’ve already covered your outside AC unit by now, right? After all, it’s the smart and practical thing to do.

Uh, not exactly.

You see, despite conventional wisdom and no matter how fastidious you and your neighbors might be in covering your condensing units to keep out snow and dirt, etc., you’re pretty much wasting your time. As in, don’t you think condensing unit engineers took winter’s worst into account when designing them in the first place? Trust us: they did, and your unit was built to withstand the worst winter has to offer.

But beyond simply taking an unnecessary step, covering your air conditioning unit can actually cause it harm. That’s because squirrels, mice, and other furry critters often make winter homes for themselves inside neatly wrapped and warm condensing units. While inside there, they’re prone to take a chomp or two out of internal electrical wires and other system components. So that, come spring, it’s entirely possible that some covered condensing units won’t turn on once the thermostat is triggered.

Still, if you just can’t stand the sight of snow piling up on top of your condenser, then find a small tarp, etc., and cover the top only. You can hold the tarp in place by laying plywood on top of it, and then a couple of cinder blocks on top of the plywood. Just be careful not to put too much weight on it.

But even without a lid of its own, your AC unit will be just fine and dandy come spring with no covering at all – assuming, of course, there’s not something already wrong with it.