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The Dangers of Running Your AC Too Cold


When the heat rises to its peak during the summer, it may be hard to think of getting your house “too cold.” You’ll want as much cooling as you can get from your AC so you have a retreat from the heat outside. 

Air conditioning systems, however, aren’t designed to provide a home with freezer-like temperatures—and you wouldn’t want your home as cold as a freezer anyway. It just sounds nice on a hot day. Even though you can lower the temperature on the thermostat down to 60°F doesn’t mean you should, no matter how hot you feel. Running an AC too cold can lead to problems for your air conditioner. Plus, you don’t need it that cold and can help keep out the heat if you raise it. We know this sounds backwards, but we’ll get into why this works.

Your AC Has a Cooling Limit

We’re not talking about the lowest setting on the thermostat. Your AC has a mechanical limit on how much it can change the temperature in the house. This is its temperature differential, and for residential air conditioning systems it is 20°F. 

In other words, when you turn on your AC, it can at most lower the temperature inside the house by 20°F. This should be enough for most days, especially if you have a well-insulated house to keep out extra heat. The recommended energy-saving setting on the thermostat is 78°F, and that can handle almost any hot day. Even a day above 100°F, because the insulation in the house will prevent some of that heat from getting in, giving the AC a head-start on cooling down the interior. 

What happens if you lower the AC beyond its temperature differential? The air conditioner will run continuously without cycling down because it’s attempting to reach a temperature setting beyond its limits. This places immense strain on the system that it isn’t designed to handle. It can lead to the system overheating and tripping the circuit breaker, or motors burning out. 

Coil Freeze

We strongly recommend you don’t lower your thermostat below 68°F when cooling the house. This is already a low temperature and most people won’t find it comfortable. Aside from possibly forcing the AC to run too much, it also creates a risk of the evaporator coil freezing over, which will prevent the system from removing enough heat from the air. 

Raise the Temperature to Keep It Cool

You can help your AC survive the summer if you raise the thermostat setting as high as you feel comfortable. You’ll also help keep your house cooler. How does that work? The closer the indoor temperature is to the outside, the slower heat from outside moves into the house. This is called heat gain. Insulation helps slow it down, but so does a higher temperature setting, like 78°F. Your house won’t heat up as much and you’ll also enjoy great energy savings compared to lowering the thermostat too far. 

If your AC isn’t getting the house cool enough no matter what you do, then it’s time for air conditioning service in Lake Oswego, OR from our experts.

Call on Clawson Heating & Air Conditioning when you need fast and effective repairs for your AC. “Connecting People to Comfort!”

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