Las Vegas, NV

Myth or Truth: Will Running an Air Conditioner in Cold Weather Damage It?

Will Running an Air Conditioner in Cold Weather Damage It? This is a valid concern, let’s explore: Air conditioning is ubiquitous, and homeowners often rely on their units heavily during the summer months. However, their use significantly decreases in the winter. There are instances where you might need to use your air conditioner during the colder months, such as testing the unit, demonstrating its functionality to a potential buyer, or performing minor repairs. You may have heard that running the AC in cold weather is not recommended. But is this claim true, or is it just a persistent myth?

Will Running AC in Cold Weather Damage It?

It’s true that using an air conditioner in cold weather is not advisable. Air conditioners are equipped with condensing units that are not designed for cold weather operation. These units contain oil used to lubricate the compressor. This oil is a heavy grade type that performs best in warm conditions. As the temperature drops, the oil thickens and fails to lubricate the compressor effectively.

If AC compressors used a lighter grade of oil, they could potentially be used in the winter. However, this would introduce a different problem. In the summer, the lighter oil would heat up excessively, failing to provide sufficient lubrication and increasing the risk of compressor damage. Since most people don’t need to cool their homes when it’s already cold outside, HVAC manufacturers use summer-weight oils to optimize performance during peak usage periods. Additionally, operating an air conditioner in winter can cause condensation on the cooling coil to freeze, potentially damaging the unit.

What Temperature is Too Cold?

HVAC manufacturers generally recommend not operating your air conditioner for prolonged periods when the temperature falls below 65 degrees Fahrenheit. If you need to test your unit, wait until the temperature is consistently above 60 degrees Fahrenheit for at least three days beforehand.

Why It’s Important to Follow These Guidelines

Ignoring these guidelines and running your air conditioner in cold weather can lead to several issues that you do not want:

  1. Compressor Damage: Thickened oil can lead to poor lubrication, causing wear and tear on the compressor.
  2. Frozen Coils: Condensation on the cooling coils can freeze, leading to potential damage.
  3. Inefficient Operation: The air conditioner won’t operate efficiently, leading to higher energy consumption and possible malfunctions.

Alternatives for Cold Weather Cooling

If you absolutely need to cool a space during the winter, consider using alternative methods if they are available:

  1. Portable Heaters: These can provide localized cooling without the risk of damaging your air conditioner.
  2. Ventilation: Using fans and opening windows can help maintain airflow and reduce indoor temperatures without relying on your AC unit.
  3. HVAC Systems with Heat Pumps: Some HVAC systems come with heat pumps that can operate efficiently in both heating and cooling modes, even in colder temperatures.


Running your air conditioner in cold weather can indeed damage it, primarily due to the thickening of the lubricating oil and the risk of frozen coils. To ensure the longevity and efficiency of your air conditioning system, it’s best to avoid using it when the temperature falls below 65 degrees Fahrenheit. For those in Las Vegas, NV, needing air conditioning services, products, or maintenance, Wrich Air Heating & Cooling is here to help. Contact us at (702) 233-1636 for expert advice and service.

By adhering to these guidelines and seeking professional advice when needed, you can maintain your air conditioning system in optimal condition and avoid unnecessary damage in the long run. Trust the air conditioning experts at Wrich Air Heating & Cooling to keep your HVAC system running smoothly, no matter the season.

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