Even if the experts predict a relatively quiet hurricane season this year, it doesn’t mean you should let your guard down. After all, it only takes one storm to cause significant damage to your home. If you’ve ever done it, you know that getting your home ready for a hurricane is a major undertaking.
There is much to be done, and to cover it all would make this post way too long. Instead, let’s focus on one of the most frequently overlooked steps in that process: prepping your AC system.
What to do before a Hurricane Hits
Your air conditioner can easily survive a hurricane, as long as you take steps to protect it. Otherwise, you might find yourself having to replace your system after the storm has passed.
It’s critical to turn your air conditioner off during a hurricane. If you leave it on, your unit can suffer severe damage from the constant power interruptions. These erratic power failures can take a big toll on your compressor as well as other integral parts of your air conditioning system, placing pressure on the components as they shut off suddenly, only to switch back on as soon as the power is restored.
Depending on the severity of the damage to your compressor or other components, leaving the air conditioner on during a hurricane may cost you major repairs or even necessary replacement of the whole unit. Whether your air conditioning is pretty new or has a few years on it, it suffers just the same.
Before the storm hits, turn the temperature down to several degrees colder than your usual preferred indoor temperature. This way, your home is “pre-cooled” and will stay cooler for longer after you turn your AC off.
What to do During the Storm
During a hurricane, an air conditioner is susceptible to damage from lightning. Often, lightning strikes cause power surges which can “fry” electronics and also harm you’re AC. Some samples of specific damage include blown fuses, burnt wires, burnt capacitors, and even fried compressors. One of the common hidden dangers of lightning strikes during a hurricane is a burnt capacitor. Capacitors are similar to batteries. They help power the blower motor, the outside fan, and the compressor.
You may not see the effects of the strike right away. The replacement of the capacitor is pretty inexpensive, but if it is left in a non-working state after the storm, it can cause the compressor to fail weeks, or even months later.
A direct lightning strike to your air conditioner during a hurricane can definitely fry your system. There isn’t anything you can do about that. But, the more frequent occurrence is the power surge described above. Taking the easy step of installing a surge protector for your HVAC system will give you peace of mind during our common Florida thunderstorms and the unfortunate event of a hurricane.
What to do after a Hurricane Passes
Once the storm has moved on, you should turn your AC back on as soon as possible. Otherwise, if you let it sit idle for too long, that will give mold and bacteria an opportunity to establish a foothold in your system and ducts. Your home - and by extension, your AC system - has just been through a high-moisture, high-heat weather event, and as we all know, those are the exact conditions mold thrives in.
But be careful - you should inspect your AC first. If the storm has damaged your system, trying to run it can make things even worse.
Questions to ask:
- Was the A/C unit ever underwater?
- Are all lines (refrigerant and electrical) intact, or is there damage?
- Has the unit been hit by falling trees or other windblown objects?
- Can you detect and evidence of electrical smoke?
- Do you hear a clicking sound or loud buzzing noises coming from the AC?
- Are the fan and vents clear of debris?
The range of potential damages is wide due to the intense wind, rain, and flooding that happens during a hurricane. Your AC is tough, but it is no match for that kind of power.
In any case, you should always consider a duct cleaning after a storm. If the air circulating through your home is going through moldy ducts, this can be a real health hazard. People with airborne allergies, lung-related diseases, or compromised immune systems are particularly vulnerable. If you have children or are elderly or have an elderly family member in your home, it is also a smart choice to clean your ducts.
Another important best practice is to check all your electronics. If a power surge did go through your home and take out your television, DVR, computer, or other electronic equipment, you should get an inspection done to see if the capacitor is blown. Taking care of a small AC repair can save you big bucks in the long run.
And keep in mind that a storm doesn’t have to be a hurricane to damage your A/C. Even if you’re only expecting a typical Florida storm that brings heavy wind and rain, you should make sure you’re protecting your air conditioner.
Did you know that the average amount of lightning strikes in Florida is 3,500 per day?
Our heat combined with high humidity is an invitation to lightning — and one of the most expensive systems in your house, the air conditioning system, should be protected. When you are having your regular AC maintenance performed on your HVAC system, talk to the technician about the full benefits of installing a surge protector.
Easy AC has years of experience dealing with the damage tropical storms and hurricanes cause to air conditioners – making us experts in AC repair and maintenance in the Tampa Bay area. From base systems to top-of-the-line technology, our techs know it all backwards and forwards, inside and out.
So if you’re system is acting up after a storm, give us a call. You’ll be happy you did. We've been keeping our customers cool in the Tampa Bay heat and dealing with thunderstorms and hurricanes for years, by combining skill and professionalism with a steady commitment to honest dealing and doing business with integrity.