Do I Need to Run My AC in Winter?

Although they are in season for only a few months of the year, air conditioner units use nearly 6 percent of all the electricity produced in the United States, according to Energy.gov. Beyond the cost of powering your AC unit, there are also expenses involved with purchase and maintenance. While an air conditioning unit’s main job is to cool a home during the summer, putting it to work during the off-season helps get the most for your money.

 

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Regular System Maintenance

Odds are, a brand-new air conditioner will last at least a decade of regular use. That said, when part of the system has a flaw, you don’t want to find out about it in 110-degree weather midsummer. Therefore, it’s essential to maintain your air conditioner unit through all four seasons, not only the one that puts it in high demand.

How Do Air Conditioners Work?

Air conditioning units use the same methods of cooling as your refrigerator. They transfer heat from inside your home into the outside environment. Cooling comes from an evaporator, which is a cold indoor coil. A hot outdoor coil releases the heat outside.

How Stuff Works explains that the original air conditioner concept was not intended to cool the air, but rather to “condition” it and reduce moisture in the air at a publishing company that used layered ink techniques. Blowing inside air across cold pipes cooled the air, reducing the amount of moisture it could carry.

The result was much like the air conditioner concept we still use in modern times. However, today’s use of the technology focuses on cooling more than conditioning.

 

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Maintaining Your AC

Normally, all this cooling and dispersing action happens flawlessly. But to get the most out of your air conditioning machine, schedule regular maintenance, including checking for debris on the outside of the unit, as well as running it periodically in the off-season.

Although most air conditioners can handle outdoor temperatures and inclement weather, animals and heavy objects like tree branches can wreak havoc. You can choose to cover and winterize your AC unit or leave it open if you live in a mild climate. Avoid use if it’s raining or snowing, since uncovering the appliance may allow moisture into your home through the vents.

Starting the unit up for a brief period during cold yet dry weather is also helpful for preventing serious maintenance issues. An improperly winterized unit may rust or mold, meaning you’re losing money on your investment. Ensuring that the AC hasn’t sustained damage now means that you’ll be ready come spring and summer heat waves.

 

Humidity Has Its Hazards

While most people use their AC strictly during summertime to cool off, they don’t often think about the changes that the machine makes to the humidity inside the house. With this perspective, the benefits of running the AC in the winter time are more apparent.

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Conditioning the Air

Because of the air conditioner’s original application as a “conditioner” rather than a cooling system, these units do condition the air. In winter months, homes often feel humid, and the air becomes stagnant. As we attempt to stay warm, we inadvertently trap moisture inside.

If you have ever traced your fingers across a steamed-up window pane, then you have experienced this scenario at home. The pitfall to staying toasty warm is that this creates moisture that can harbor bacteria and mold. If your home has proper ventilation, pent-up moisture may not cause concern.

However, if you notice a lot of moisture on windows in your house, switching on the AC for a short period can help balance the moisture inside. Even better, leaving the AC’s fan running is a solution that doesn’t pit the appliance against your furnace, but it allows the warm air to circulate.

Plus, lowering the humidity in the house can prevent moisture damage to more than those soggy windows. Maintaining airflow is vital in avoiding warping and distortion of the interior of the house due to excess dampness.