If you have questions about your home heating and cooling system, need emergency repairs, or are thinking about replacing your system, turn to Georgia Air Cooling & Heating. Call us at (912) 513-3756 to make an appointment today.
Running air conditioning might seem unthinkable when winter arrives, and the temperatures drop. However, living in Georgia, you know that warm days during the winter months aren’t out of the question, and you might want to flip on the AC to cool down the indoor temperature. This leads to the question, “Should I turn my AC off in the winter?”
At Georgia Air Cooling & Heating, we often hear this question, and the answer is, “it depends.” While our northern neighbors should always turn off their air conditioners during the colder months, it’s not always such a straightforward situation in our milder climate. As the leading air conditioning repair service in Savannah, we have some tips and guidance to help you stay comfortable and protect your equipment throughout the winter.
Using an Air Conditioner in the Winter
If you plan to use your air conditioning unit in the winter, only do so when the outdoor temperatures are 60 to 65 degrees or higher. If your home feels stuffy or too warm, but the outside temperature is below 65, use the air conditioner’s fan to help circulate the air, open a window, or turn down the thermostat to make the space more comfortable.
Allowing the air conditioner to run when the temperature drops below 65 unnecessarily increases your energy bills because the unit won’t be as efficient. Air conditioners work best when the outdoor temperature is higher than the indoor temperature. Therefore, when you run the unit during the winter, it will work much harder to lower the indoor temperature and use more power.
Running the air conditioner during the winter months can also cause frozen coils and widespread damage to the moving parts. Most manufacturers recommend not using an AC system when temperatures reach 60 degrees or lower. If you decide to turn on the air conditioner, only do so when the outside temperature remains above 60 (preferably above 65) degrees for at least a few days to ensure there isn’t any ice buildup around the condenser.
Attempting to run your air conditioning unit when outside temperatures are too low can affect the ambient temperature sensor. Air conditioners have this sensor to ensure the unit doesn’t operate when it’s too cold outside. Attempting to turn it on anyway and circumvent this sensor will likely result in a malfunction and a costly repair.
The Risks of Running Your AC in the Winter
In many cases, when customers ask, “Should I turn my AC off in the winter?” we highlight some of the risks that come from using the unit when it’s too cold outside. Although you don’t need to worry about any of these potential consequences during the warmer months, using the AC system when it’s less than 60 degrees outside can cause a long list of issues, including the following.
During the summer, the air conditioner pulls moisture from the air, creating condensation. This water drains outdoors but can accumulate and freeze onto the coils when it’s cold outside. When this happens, the AC unit will only blow cold air, but more importantly, the extra ice can puncture the coils, which will require replacement.
Keeping the AC turned off and not running it when there is ice — or even the possibility of ice — on the coils prevents this from happening.
Using the air conditioner in the winter can cause the compressor to work harder than usual. The harder any mechanical component has to work, the more likely it is to overheat and malfunction. In some cases, overheating can cause catastrophic compressor failure, which will require a costly repair or even an entirely new air conditioner.
Frozen or thick lubricant doesn’t move through the AC’s mechanical parts, increasing the likelihood that they can seize. The compressor is especially vulnerable to damage from inadequate lubrication. It can sustain significant damage or even seize and fail if it’s not well-lubricated while running.
Following the manufacturer’s recommendations for using the air conditioner and not running it when the outdoor temperatures are too low can prevent these consequences and keep your AC running efficiently when you need it the most.
Using “Reversible” Air Conditioners
Although we typically say “yes” when customers ask, “Should I turn my AC off in the winter?” there is one significant exception. If you have a ductless air conditioner, also known as a ductless mini-split heat pump or a reversible air conditioner, running it in the winter can keep your home comfortable and your energy bills in check.
When you run an air conditioner in the summer, it moves warm air from inside your home to the outdoors. This cools off the interior temperature, making it comfortable inside. However, this process isn’t ideal in the colder months.
A heat pump, or reversible air conditioner, has a reversing valve that switches the air conditioner into a heater. Essentially, the heat pump removes cold air from indoors and replaces it with warm air. These units are efficient and do not have the same issues as traditional air conditioners when operating in cold weather.
Freeze Protection Mode
Some ductless mini-splits have a built-in freeze protection mode that can keep your home from getting too cold. Depending on the manufacturer and model, this setting may appear as minimum heat, low heat, or 8C. Although most useful in extremely cold climates, this feature can produce a continuous supply of warm air to prevent the indoor temperature from falling below freezing.
In the Savannah area’s milder climate, the freeze protection feature isn’t as critical as in other regions. If you plan to be away from home for several days, setting the ductless mini-split to this mode can protect your home in the unlikely event of a deep freeze. Some mini-split models even have a smart feature that allows you to control the unit via an app, so you can have peace of mind no matter where you are.
Preparing Your Air Conditioner for Winter
The first step to preparing your air conditioning unit for winter is manually turning it off. This ensures it doesn’t kick on automatically during the colder months. You can always turn the AC on manually to cool down your home on the occasional warm day if necessary.
Completing a few additional maintenance tasks can help keep it in good condition and ensure it works in the spring when you need it again. If the AC needs any repairs, make them now; it’s a great time to schedule maintenance and a tune-up to catch any issues, so they don’t worsen over the winter. Clean up around the unit as well, removing any overgrown plants or debris that can get into the unit and cause damage.
In our area, most homeowners don’t need to worry about covering air conditioning units during the winter. Manufacturers design outdoor AC units to withstand the cold weather, and since we don’t typically experience harsh winter weather, a cover isn’t necessary. If you wish, you can cover the top of the unit for protection against storm debris, but avoid covering the sides to prevent moisture buildup that leads to rust.
The Bottom Line
Ultimately, the answer to the question, “Should I turn off my AC in the winter?” depends on the type of AC unit you have and what you’re trying to accomplish. If you have a reversible air conditioner, keeping it on makes sense since it is also a heater. Even a traditional AC unit can provide fresh air to a stuffy space, as long as it’s not too cold outside.
Otherwise, keeping the AC off during the winter is your best bet to protect the equipment from damage.
Keep Your Home Comfortable Year-Round with Help from Georgia Air Cooling & Heating
Your home’s heating and cooling system should keep your family comfortable, no matter the outside temperature. If you find that the indoor temperatures are too cold or warm, no matter how you adjust the thermostat, call Georgia Air Cooling & Heating to diagnose the issue. We’ll find the perfect solution, whether it’s installing a new programmable thermostat or an entirely new system.
Savannah and southeast Georgia homeowners rely on our experts at Georgia Air Cooling & Heating for high-quality, efficient, and affordable HVAC services. Our team of NATE-certified technicians is ready to answer all your most pressing questions, from “Should I turn my AC off in the winter?” to “Which system is best for my home?” We guarantee 100% satisfaction, upfront pricing, exceptional work, and only high-quality products and materials.
Call today to learn how Georgia Air and Trane can help you avoid the winter chill and keep your HVAC system working efficiently every season. In addition to ongoing maintenance, HVAC repairs, and installations, we offer 24/7 emergency service for urgent situations. Contact us at (912) 513-3756 or schedule an online appointment.