In Cold-Weather Climates, How Can You Best Care for Your AC Unit?

cold weather climates

Central air conditioners installed in homes in cold-weather climates require special consideration before starting the unit up, particularly while outside temperatures may still be low. Under certain circumstances, a homeowner might want to temporarily start the AC to quickly cool down a home that is overly warm from furnace operation. Another possible cold-weather scenario might be deciding to simply test the air conditioner for proper operation as you prepare for annual seasonal star-up for the summer.

The engineering and technology incorporated in a central air conditioner is designed for use at a certain temperature range — generally 55 degrees or higher. In the operating manual of many units, there’s often a caution against starting the AC when outdoor temperatures are lower than that specified minimum. Also, many service technicians and other professionals (such as home inspectors) will decline to start up an air conditioner in temperatures lower than 55 degrees, just to ensure that no damage occurs.

Here are a couple of specific concerns about running an air conditioner in cold-weather climates:

  • The system compressor located in the outdoor half of a central AC is usually the most costly part of an air conditioner. It contains oil for the lubrication of critical internal parts. This high-grade oil is very thick at cold temperatures and may not circulate properly to provide adequate lubrication. Lack of sufficient lubrication risks inflicting excess wear and tear, as well as other internal damage to the compressor.
  • Refrigerant that circulates between the indoor and outdoor units of a central AC is supposed to be in a vaporous state when it is in the compressor stage. At temperatures below 55 degrees, however, refrigerant in the compressor may be in a liquid state. Because the compressor is designed to compress a vapor — not a noncompressible liquid — starting the AC at a low temperature may risk severe damage to the compressor.

For important advice before operating an air conditioner in cold-weather climates, contact Paitson Bros. We’ve been serving our Wabash Valley neighbors with quality HVAC sales and service since 1922.

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    Jeff Paitson Jeff Paitson is a third generation business owner who continues to run the business with the same values that have been passed down from previous generations since 1922.

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    Ethan Ethan Rayburn is a lifelong resident of Terre Haute and a 2005 graduate of Purdue University.

    An Eagle Scout, Ethan spent four years as a non-profit executive with the Boy Scouts of America before joining Paitson Bros. as a comfort advisor and later General Manager. In that role, Ethan has brought a renewed enthusiasm for customer care, integrity, value, and service to Paitson Bros. Heating & Air Conditioning.

    Ethan enjoys singing and was a member of the Purdue Varsity Glee Club. He also enjoys playing and coaching soccer, spending time with his family and two young boys, and volunteering his time and resources with his church, Terre Haute First Baptist Church, which he has attended from a very young age.
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