What Outside Air Temperature is Too Cold for an Air Conditioner? 

Even in cooler weather and perhaps in winter, we sometimes want to bring some fresh air indoors without having to open the windows. Maybe you’ve thought about running your ac in cold weather. But is it a good idea?

With most air conditioners, 60 degrees Fahrenheit is the coolest outdoor temperature at which you should run an air conditioner. As soon as it gets cooler than that, you shouldn’t run your air conditioner. 

Can You Run an Air Conditioner During the Winter?

Central AC

When the ambient temperature is too low, it will affect how the refrigerant in your air conditioner acts.

This will lead to strain on your air conditioner.

After a while, it will probably be damaged. The compressor is the part of your air conditioner that will be most severely affected. 

Don’t run your central AC during the winter.

In fact, you may want to cover it, especially during snowy weather.

If you do this, use a cover made for this purpose. It must be made of breathable material. Don’t use one that is too heavy. Stay away from materials that don’t allow airflow, such as plastic. These may damage your unit. 

You should also take quick action after significant snowfalls. Use a shovel to move the snow and ice away from your air conditioning unit. 

Window Unit AC

Like a central air unit, a window AC should only run if the ambient temperature outside is at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

In fact, experts recommend removing window air conditioners and storing them in a warm and dry place during the winter. 

This is to protect the air conditioner, as well as help, keep heat in your house.

After all, if you leave your window AC installed all winter, your heat will leak out through the vents. Also, cold air is likely to come into your home from the outdoors. 

Portable AC Unit

Like the other types of air conditioners, portable AC units shouldn’t be used in cold weather.

Even if you could use them in the winter, you wouldn’t want to. After all, you must vent these through a window. 

The window kits that come with these portable AC units don’t include insulation that would stop cold weather from outdoors coming inside.

There are certain kinds of portable air conditioners that allow for wall or drop ceiling venting, but you still wouldn’t want to have this in place in the winter. 

One of the advantages of portable AC units is how easy they are to uninstall and put away for the fall and winter.

Always protect your portable AC in the cold weather by putting it somewhere safe in your home. 

What Are Low Ambient Conditions? 

Some air conditioning systems, especially ones used in commercial buildings, include the ability to function in cold weather without damage.

The term “low ambient conditions” simply means low temperatures outdoors. 

Find out whether your air conditioner can operate in temperatures lower than 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

If it is, it will be designed to withstand these conditions.

This kind of air conditioning unit has what is referred to as alow ambient component.” This is what keeps your compressor safe and free from damage. 

Risks of Running Your Air Conditioner in Cold Weather

Running your air conditioner in excessively cool or cold weather can lead to several different problems.

These include the lubricant thickening, bearings and moving parts getting damaged, and refrigerant coils freezing up. 

The reason why the thickening of the unit’s lubricant is a problem is that the lubricant is necessary for the correct compressor function.

The lubricant isn’t able to fulfill its purpose if it gets too thick. In this situation, the compressor will soon become a problem. 

Running your air conditioner during cold temperatures, your compressor will also be strained by all the extra work.

The strain will be caused by having to maintain warmth inside the unit. As a result, you may end up with an overheated air conditioner and a damaged compressor.

Alternative Options to Running an AC During the Winter

1. Open the Windows

Go ahead and let in some fresh air.

The house can get warm and stuffy even on cold days.

Stay in the room while the window is open, so you don’t forget and leave it open for too long. You don’t want all your heating literally going out the window. 

Opening the window is an excellent method of cleaning the air indoors. Scientists explain that indoor air is highly polluted.

Open the window to cool and ventilate the room, bringing in new air and letting some of your indoor pollutants out. 

2. Turn on a Fan

Have fans in the house that you can turn on whenever you want to cool down a run during the winter.

A fan will move the air and even though it won’t meaningfully decrease the temperature, it will make you feel cooler. 

If you have an air purifier that blows out air, you can use this as a fan.

Turn the air purifier in your direction and turn it on to the highest setting. You’ll also enjoy the benefit of cleaner air. 

3. Turn Down Your Heat

This one almost goes without saying but people often overlook it. If you feel too warm, check your home heating settings.

You may decide to turn it down and save some money in the process. You will also cut down on wear and tear to your heating system. 

Final Thoughts

If you want your air conditioner to last, make sure you use it the right way.

Most air conditioners will get damaged if you operate them when the temperature outdoors is cooler than 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

Remember to read the instructions that come with your air conditioner for specific information. 

About Roy Cohen

Roy Cohen has a burning passion for heating, cooling, and ventilation. He aims to help you save money on expensive repairs and bring you the best HVAC products. He has years of experience behind him in HVAC repair and garage maintenance.

You can find Roy at his LinkedIn or his email: [email protected]

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