Summer is over, and fall is slowly transitioning into winter. As winter approaches, many homeowners look for the best, most cost-effective ways to heat their homes. You may have heard talk about using an air conditioner during the winter months and wondered if it was a good idea or just an old wives’ tale.
In this article, we’ll discuss why people consider using their AC in the winter, some challenges with doing so, tips, and heating alternatives. Phew! That’s a lot to cover, so let’s get to it.
Can you use an air conditioner in the winter?
Most people would opt to use their heater or furnaces in the wintertime. That said, a brave few decide to run their air conditioner during the wintertime as well.
While it may seem counterintuitive, if your AC unit has heating capacity, you can use it to heat your home during the winter. Air conditioners with heating capabilities are called “reversible air conditioners”.
However, since they are designed to specialize in cooling the air down in hot weather, they won’t be as efficient or effective in this secondary function as a traditional heating unit.
Two reasons some people use an AC in the winter
- Humidity control. In addition to cooling your air, air conditioners also reduce humidity. For humid climates like Arkansas, running your AC in the winter can help manage indoor humidity levels.
We suggest investing in a dehumidification system that can be used all year while keeping your AC unit safe. Many of these can attach to your HVAC system.
- To subsidize their heating system. Modern ACs with a reverse cycle function can provide efficient heating, so some folks use this feature for extra warmth.
Before kickstarting your AC into reverse, ensure your heating system is providing adequate heating. If not, consider getting it looked at. Risking the safety of your cooling system to support a malfunctioning or weak heating system isn’t worth it.
As our team about how we can make your Arkansas home comfortable for you.
Challenges with using an AC in the winter
Despite the potential advantages, there are some potential drawbacks to running your air conditioning during the winter:
You risk damaging your unit
Running your AC all year can lead to increased wear and tear, potentially shortening its lifespan. ACs are not built for cold weather use – some systems don’t have a heating function and many that do actually have a limit before they shut off automatically. Most manufacturers don’t recommend operating a system once the weather falls below 60-degrees Fahrenheit.
Using an air conditioner below a certain temperature can affect the functionality of its internal components (compressor, condenser etc), leading to costly repairs.
Inadequate heating and increased energy costs
Depending on the insulation, size of your home and your climate region, an air conditioner’s heating function might not be sufficient to keep your home warm during really cold weather. In Arkansas, most homeowners need a strong heating system to get them through the cold season.
Modern AC units are typically more efficient, but the cost of electricity still adds up. Even if your AC and heating units are running efficiently, you will eventually see the impact of running two HVAC systems reflected in your monthly bills.
More use, more maintenance
Regularly using your AC in winter means it will need additional maintenance during the year to ensure it runs efficiently. This could include regular filter changes and professional servicing.
For personalized recommendations on your home’s heating and cooling, consult with an HVAC professional. The Anderson Air team is committed to providing you with reliable advice and expert services.
Maintenance and protection tips for winter AC usage
If you opt to use your AC unit during the winter, here are some things you can do to protect it from damage and maintain optimal performance and longevity:
- Cover your outdoor unit. Exposure to snow and icy rain can damage your unit’s outdoor components. A weatherproof cover can guard your unit against the elements.
- Schedule maintenance checks with a qualified technician to detect any possible issues and make sure your AC system is functioning efficiently. This is especially important to do before the temperature drops.
- Clear vegetation, snow, and ice from around your outdoor unit. Cut back any shrubs and hedges before the winter starts and remember to clear your unit after each snowfall to maintain proper airflow.
With these tips you can help your reverse AC unit do better in the wintertime. Don’t forget to consult with a professional for more information regarding the care and maintenance of your specific AC system.
Potential heating alternatives
Instead of using your reverse air conditioner, consider these options:
Traditional space heaters are a valuable supplement to your heating system, providing some of the best home comfort. These portable devices allow for targeted warmth, so you can control the temperature in specific areas without having to heat the entire house.
Invest in a dual-purpose system
Homeowners wanting an all-in-one system that can both cool and heat their homes should invest in a dual-purpose system like a heat pump. These systems (or packages) give you everything you need the whole year ‘round from a single unit instead of two separate ones.
Here are some examples of popular dual systems or packages:
- Gas packages (electric AC and gas heating) have an electric AC unit and a gas-powered furnace built into one. These are more common in colder climates that need stronger heating capacity.
- Heat Pumps are an energy-saving alternative to ACs and furnaces for climates with moderate heating and cooling needs. They use electricity to transfer heat in the air from indoors or outdoors (depending on the need).
- Ductless Mini-Split Systems: These systems are an excellent option for homes without ductwork. Similar to heat pumps, mini splits use an indoor and an outdoor unit to provide homeowners with the best indoor climate possible.
Install a smart thermostat
Smart systems are the next big thing in the home improvement and HVAC world today. A programmable or smart thermostat can make keeping your home comfortable and your HVAC systems safe is simple. You can set a schedule to make sure it only runs when necessary, limiting unnecessary energy consumption and reducing wear and tear.
You can set your smart thermostat to shut off the AC unit when the weather outside falls below a certain temperature to prevent your system and its components from freezing over and needing repair.
Considering using your AC in the winter? Ask the pros.
While it may seem backward, some homeowners find that using their AC in the wintertime is cheaper and more efficient than a heating system. Even though some systems have dual use, it’s important to remember that your AC is primarily a cooling system, not a heating one.
If you’re not sure about whether or not you should consider trying it for your home, contact the professionals at Anderson Air. We’ll give you our expert recommendation based on your home’s heating needs.