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Why Does My Outside Unit Run When the Heater Is On?

If you purchased a home with heating and air conditioning already included, you might not know much about the comfort systems in place. You may assume that the systems work like the heating and air conditioning equipment you’ve had in the past. And, often, that means a separate air conditioning and heating system.

Typical AC and Heating Setups

Typically, a central air conditioner is separate from a heater. A furnace may be installed right next to the air conditioner, and they likely use the same blower fan, but they work a lot differently. A furnace, located inside of the home, generates heat via electricity or natural gas or propane, and this heat is transferred to the air.

A central air conditioner has indoor and outdoor components. Refrigerant, a chemical blend, cycles from the inside to outside units over and over again. Refrigerant absorbs heat from the air inside your home and releases it outdoors. That’s what starts the cooling process. And that’s what makes it seem strange if the outside unit starts running with the thermostat in “heating” mode.

Why the Outside Unit Runs with the Heater On

Typically, the outside unit operates when you turn on the air conditioner only. There are two reasons the outside unit may run in the winter.

  1. Someone has switched the thermostat to AC mode, by accident.
  2. You have a heat pump, not a furnace!

About Heat Pumps

The comfort system on your property may actually be a heat pump. Many people don’t know much about the heating and cooling equipment on their property—and that’s okay. All you really need to know is that it’s normal (and necessary) for the outside unit of your heat pump to run when it is cool outside.

Heat pumps are essentially air conditioners that can run in reverse. Heat moves from the air indoors to the outside air—in the summer. When you switch the thermostat to heating mode, heat can be absorbed from the air outside and moved indoors. It’s an excellent, efficient system, so there’s nothing to worry about (as long as it works). Just keep it properly maintained!

For all your air conditioning needs in Stone Mountain, GA, call the experts—Air Conditioning Experts, Inc.

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