Being in the grips of a polar vortex not only is something you never forget but is also a time when you are definitely not thinking about air conditioning. But you might be wondering what would happen if someone ran their central air in the midst of weather such as this. Some people have actually and accidentally turned on their air conditioning in the midst of the most frigid of weather. It may happen because of dementia of an older relative, or a child may have been playing with the thermostat. However it came about, if you have experienced this particular problem, here is what happens to an air conditioner running at subzero temperatures.
The Refrigerant Becomes a Semi-Solid
The refrigerant in A/C systems is a liquid, which means that it can be affected by the extreme cold. Refrigerants are very cold as they are, but they have to remain liquid in order to be functional. This liquid passes from the condenser to the evaporator in order to become a gas, but exposed to extreme temperatures like the ones of late, the refrigerant becomes very slow and very sluggish. It cannot condense, nor evaporate, causing extensive damage to the internal components of the air conditioner.
Your System Overheats Trying to Cool When It Is Already Half Frozen
Imagine something trying so very hard to work against the current temperatures to do its job that it overheats. That is not difficult to imagine, but this is a very unusual situation. Not only is the system working against the current temperatures, but the current temperatures are also significantly damaging the machinery. It is a double whammy for your air conditioner and one that will force you to replace the entire system if your A/C was on for more than four to eight hours in arctic temperatures.
Your Furnace May Freeze up Too
Your furnace is responsible for sending both cool and warm air into your home. The entire ventilation system in your home is affected as well. When the A/C is on during a polar vortex, it sends more frigid air into your home and into the furnace and ventilation system. What happens next depends on the length of exposure and how long the A/C was running. Your vents may have frost and ice in them. Your furnace may not function properly after you realize that the A/C was on and you turn it to heat instead. It will take at least a full day to get everything thawed out and warmed up again. In the meantime, you might want to schedule heating and cooling installation services to replace everything that was wrecked in this incident.