Will an Air Conditioner Work if It Is Cold Outside?

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An air conditioning unit helps to regulate the temperature of a room during hot weather. Some units even feature a heating element for cold winter days when you don't need to make the room colder than it is outside. If you use your air conditioner's cooling function in the winter, the coils might freeze up. If so, you'll want to follow a few guidelines to unfreeze them.



An air conditioner may not work well if the outside temperature is below 60 degrees. Using an air conditioner that is not equipped with a heating element on cold days may cause damage to the unit.

AC Thermostat Limits

Air conditioning units have limits to their thermostat settings. The low end of the thermostat dips to approximately 60 degrees Fahrenheit on most units. If the outside temperature is colder than that, it makes more sense to open a window to allow the outside air to cool the room than to use the air conditioner to do it.


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If the weather is warmer than the lowest thermostat setting, press the down directional button on the air conditioner's front panel, or on the remote control, to turn the thermostat down. The air conditioner will cool the air until the room's temperature reaches the thermostat setting.

Using the 'Heat' Feature

Some air conditioners feature a heat element along with a thermostat that can be set up to 90 F. Turning on the "Heat" feature directs the unit to produce warm air to combat the cold weather outside. To access this feature, press the "Mode" button repeatedly until you reach the "Heat" mode. Set the desired heating temperature on the thermostat by pressing the up directional button until you reach the desired setting.


If your unit comes with a built-in heating system, then running it in the winter shouldn't be a problem. You just want to make sure your air conditioner's low ambient sensors aren't causing the refrigerants to work. These units can't be safely used in low temperatures.

Using the Vent

When the weather is very cold outside and you would just like to let some cool air into the room, open the air conditioner vent. Turn on the "Fan Only" function to circulate some of the outside air into the room. The vent allows an opening from the room to the outside through the air conditioner and is used to expel stagnant air from the room and bring in fresh air.


Handling Coil Freeze-Over

If you choose to use the air conditioner to cool a room when the outside temperature is low, any condensation that naturally accumulates on the cooling coil inside the unit can freeze. When the coils freeze over, the air flowing through the unit fails to cool, although you might still feel air blowing through the louvers.


Freezing can damage the unit. Defrost the air conditioner by turning it off and leaving it off for several hours or even days to allow warm air to flow through the coils and melt the ice. You can check whether the coils are clear by removing the filter and shining a flashlight through the air-exhaust cavity. The coils are usually visible just inside. If the ice doesn't melt quickly enough, you can speed things up by carefully pointing the hot air of a hair dryer at the coils through this opening.




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