Should You Run an Air Conditioner When It's Cold Outside?

Your AC units come to your rescue during the sultry summer months. While most people believe ACs function only for indoor cooling, you can also reverse the function in some systems. In winter, your AC might have the provision of heating the room, thereby serving as a heating system. However, would it be safe to operate your AC in winter with dropping environmental temperatures?

Running your AC under severe winter conditions can damage it. Reputed HVAC experts like Hurliman guide their clients regarding when they should use their ACs in winter. Meanwhile, if you are looking to buy the best AC unit, click here: https://www.hurlimanheating.com/blog/2022/may/how-much-does-a-new-air-conditioner-cost-in-spok/

Will your AC sustain damages if you run it in winter?

Yes, you might damage your AC if you operate it when it’s cold outside. This largely depends on the model, as some models are meant to function only during the summer. Thus, you need to put them off during the winter.

With a drop in temperature, the oil inside the AC thickens. Resultantly, the compressor and other parts of the system fail to function due to the lack of lubrication. Thus, using your AC in winter can lead to breakdowns.

In case you use light-grade oil to lubricate the AC, it should work perfectly even when outdoor temperatures are low. However, you cannot use this lubricant in summer. During hot weather conditions, the oil present in the condenser tends to evaporate or heat up. Therefore, the system won’t get adequate lubricant and sustain damage. 

Why would you want to run your AC in winter?

Although most households use ACs only in the summer, you might want to run the unit in winter under certain conditions.

Save space

Currently, many households are buying all-season ACs to save space. With these systems, you need not purchase a heater. Rather, you can reverse the function of your AC to heat your interiors in winter. This way, you can save space at your home. A twin-purpose appliance would also do away with the hassle of maintaining multiple temperature control devices. Instead, you could invest that money into buying a better AC unit.

Identifying technical issues

AC units are available at lower prices during winter. Thus, many households prefer buying during the colder months to save money. However, you cannot wait for the summer to test its competence. You might lose out on your warranty period or run out of the return window. Therefore, you might have to run it even when the temperatures are cold.

Maintaining humidity indoors

If you do not have a dedicated humidifier, your AC might couple up as one. In winter, you might turn on your AC to maintain the necessary humidity level.

Keep the unit running

In case your place remains cold during most of the months, keeping the unit idle would deprive it of its functionality over time. When you try to start it in summer, it might not work without a professional check. Therefore, you need to keep it running in winter. However, this must only be an occasional exercise. The oils would circulate and the machine would work flawlessly in summer. 

When is it too cold to turn your AC on?

Some HVAC brands recommend their customers not to use the AC when the temperature drops below 59 degrees Fahrenheit. This would eventually damage the unit, which will aggravate when summer sets in.

Now, if you happen to purchase a new AC in winter, you would want to get it tested. In these conditions, it would be advisable to wait until the temperature rises above 59 degrees Fahrenheit. So, the lubricating oil of the AC will warm up before you operate it. It also ensures that the condenser won’t have any ice when you turn your AC on.

When the temperature reaches 60 degrees Fahrenheit, the unit might start behaving inconsistently. The key risks that your AC would bear when you operate them in winter include:

  • Thick lubricant
  • Frozen coils
  • Damaged bearings

Therefore, the best way to prevent damage to your AC is to refrain from using it under extreme weather conditions in winter. In case you end up damaging your AC, you need to reach out to an established HVAC professional to repair it.

In modern units, sensors prevent the unit from operating when external conditions are cold. However, older machines lack this protective mechanism. So, when you operate them in the winter months, they might sustain damage.

Tips for using your AC in winter

Well, there might be situations where you have no other way but to run your AC in winter. Maybe you want to heat your room a bit or test a new unit that you recently installed. Here are some guidelines that would keep your AC safe when you run it in winter.

  • Under no condition should you try to run your AC below 59 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Run the unit for shorter durations to warm up its oil. This would prevent the build-up of ice inside the unit or on the external unit.
  • Put your unit in the Heat Mode if you need to heat your interiors. The temperature should be between 18 and 22 degrees.
  • The fan speed should be Medium or Low.
  • The hot air might affect your health, so try to put the vane of the air conditioner away from you.

Endnote

Even when the temperatures are low, your home might be warmer than you like. Try turning your AC fan or the ceiling fan to help circulate cooler air. For a short period, try to open a window.

In case you end up damaging your AC while trying to run it in winter, hire an accomplished HVAC expert to fix the issue. Besides, if you urgently need to use your AC in winter, you can reach out to the experts regarding the best time. This way, you can refrain from damaging your AC while running it in the colder months.