Can You Run Your Air Conditioner When It’s Cold Outside?

Over the past few years, air conditioners have become an essential part of every modern household. A common belief is that the AC is only for cooling purposes. But in case you don’t know, you can even run it when it’s cold outside.

Of course, running AC in cold weather may sound bizarre to you, but there are many reasons to do so. For instance, to perform repairs or test your AC’s efficiency. However, there are some downsides to it as well.

In this article, we will talk about whether running AC in cold weather is a bad idea, along with some tips at the end.

Why Would Someone Run Their Air Conditioner in the Winter?

Contrary to popular belief, air conditioners can even heat the room when it’s cold outside and keep the room free of excessive humidity. The primary purpose of an AC is to maintain the inside temperature as per your desire.

Here is why people run their air conditioner in winters:

  • Space Saving: An all-season air conditioner saves a lot of space in your home that is usually occupied by a heater.
  • Identifying Any Faults: People who buy air conditioners in the winter don’t test their units immediately. Instead, they wait for summers to unbox and install it. As a result, they find several faults in their unit when the time comes to use it. So, running AC in winter can assist you in identifying all such problems that you can direct to your seller instantly.
  • Maintaining Humidity Levels: If you don’t have a humidifier at home, the good news is that there is no need to buy one. That’s because air conditioners can efficiently maintain humidity levels in your house – a common problem in winters.
  • Keeping the AC in the Run: If you live in a region that remains cold throughout the year, chances are that your air conditioner’s functionality may decline over time. Moreover, it may also experience a dry start in the summer. Therefore, you should keep your AC running in winters to keep the oils circulating for summers.

Does Low Outside Temperature Affect Air Conditioners?

Yes, it does. In many ways, it’s not entirely safe to run an air conditioner in cold weather. Typically, air conditioners that come with condensing units are affected mostly by the lowest outdoor temperature.

That’s because these units work on heavy-grade oil that keeps the compressor lubricated in high outside temperatures. When the temperature drops outside, this oil gets thicker and fails to do its job correctly.

On the other hand, air conditioners with lighter grade oil may work efficiently in the winter season. But the problem still remains the same. The oil will heat up in the summers and won’t lubricate the compressor well enough.

Another common issue with running AC at the minimum outside temperature is the condensation and freezing of the cooling coil. All these things put your air conditioner at a higher risk of damage.

What Outside Temperature Is Too Cold for an Air Conditioner?

Every appliance tends to work properly; any condition above or below that results in its poor efficiency.

Similar is the case with air conditioners. No matter what model or brand of air conditioner you have, it will have a designated operating temperature limit.

However, the lowest outdoor operating temperature for all types of air conditioners is 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

Below 60 degrees Fahrenheit, no AC can work properly and may start behaving abruptly. If you run it below this temperature, your AC may experience:

  • Frozen coils
  • Thick lubricant oil
  • Damaged bearing and essential moving parts.

Tips on AC Use During the Winter Months

Of course, running AC in winters has its ups and downs; but if you are willing to operate your unit for any reason, you must do that with caution.

Here are some tips you should keep in mind before turning on the AC in winters:

  • HVAC manufacturers refrain the users from running AC when it’s below 65 degrees Fahrenheit. So, you should warm up the AC’s oil by running it for shorter durations for a few days. This will prevent ice build-up inside and outside the unit.
  • If you want to heat the room, you must set the AC under Heat Mode with a temperature around 18 to 22 degrees.
  • Keep the fan speed between Low to Medium.
  • To prevent adverse effects, keep the vane of the AC away from your sitting area as the hot air can be harmful to humans.


So now you know that running AC when it’s cold outside can perform several functions, apart from heating your room. So if you want to enjoy the air of your AC in winters, just follow the tips mentioned above.

By doing so, you can run your AC in any season without causing any damage to it.

With a lifelong fascination with HVAC mechanics and a mechanical engineering degree from Berkeley, Thomas Johnson boasts years of industry expertise. He founded to fill the void of understandable and useful online information about complex HVAC systems. As the chief editor, Thomas strives to provide accurate and engaging content to help readers make informed HVAC decisions.

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