Keep Air Conditioning Protection On Your Radar
Is Your HVAC System Prepared For Severe Weather?
For homeowners living in the Northeast corridor, HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) preparedness should be part of a comprehensive plan to develop readiness before severe weather strikes, as well as recovery procedures after the storm has passed. During the spring and summer months, the Horizon Services’ footprint is uniquely positioned to be affected by a variety of severe weather events, including damaging thunderstorms producing hail and potentially spinning off tornadoes. Ocean-spawned tropical storms and hurricanes may make landfall as they come up the eastern coastline causing significant damage including flooding to many low-lying areas.
With that, air conditioning and heating systems are susceptible to storm damage in several ways. HVAC preparedness takes into account physical damage from water, wind, and impact, as well as harm from electrical sources. And, since central air conditioning systems incorporate an outdoor component, this equipment is uniquely exposed to the effects of acute weather. Our experts show you how heavy rain, wind, and lightning surges can adversely affect your home’s HVAC system and how you can combat it safely.
Water and Wind
An abundance of water from a heavy rain or flooding can swamp the outdoor components of a central air conditioner causing severe damage. Additionally, wind-related impacts can also significant harm to HVAC equipment outside of the home too.
In order to help alleviate the extent of potential damage from water and wind homeowners must implement these HVAC preparedness strategies:
- Make sure the outdoor A/C unit or heat pump is securely anchored to its concrete pad and installed within a level area.
- When a storm threatens, remove any loose objects such as patio furniture, children’s toys, barbecue grilles and the like from the vicinity of the outdoor HVAC unit. In high wind conditions, these objects can become flying missiles that could damage the vulnerable condenser coil.
- Cut back encroaching vegetation that could produce leaves and other debris that might clog vents and prevent the unit from proper drainage.
- Consider turning off the unit during the storm and covering it with a canvas that fits over the entire outdoor cabinet to keep out a deluge of rain. Before restarting the system after the storm, make sure that the cover is removed.
- To shield fragile fins on the outdoor condenser coil from damage by large hail, homeowners can install hail guards. These guards are permanently installed over the coil vent opening and provide greater protection than the standard grille.
- To prevent water damage to HVAC equipment or ducts in your basement install a sump pump. These units are installed in a sump basin, or a crock, in the basement floor and automatically actuate when water in the basin reaches a specific level. The unwanted storm water is pumped up and out of the basement and properly discharged away from your home.
Today’s HVAC equipment frequently incorporates as much advanced electronic technology as any other home appliances such as stoves, dishwashers, computers, or entertainment systems. Electrical surges resulting from storms can damage expensive equipment in a millisecond. More importantly, these spikes in current may have a number of sources.
However, homeowners play an important role in preventing storm-related electrical damage to HVAC equipment. At the minimum, when a storm threatens, sensible HVAC preparedness means turning off the air conditioner or furnace at the thermostat. Better yet, homeowners could switch off the power to both the indoor and outdoor units at the circuit breaker that controls those units.
Some additional HVAC preparedness strategies against electrical issues caused by severe weather include:
- Install whole-house surge suppression equipment. This equipment can be installed at central locations such as the main electrical panel, and/or individual suppressors can be installed at locations such as the air handler and the outdoor compressor/condenser unit.
- Install a programmable thermostat with time-delay technology. A time delay prevents the system from restarting after a momentary power failure until a certain time interval, usually five minutes, has elapsed. This allows sufficient time for power from the grid to stabilize after an outage and reduces the possibility of damaged HVAC equipment due to voltage spikes.
- Install a standby generator to keep part or your entire home powered-up even if grid power is interrupted by a storm. These units are typically mounted behind or at the side of the house and often run off the home’s natural gas or propane supply, which is seldom affected by storm conditions. A standby generator constantly senses grid power and, in the event of an interruption, automatically starts and switches part or all of the home circuits over to generator power to keep systems such as HVAC equipment energized.
Restoring Normal Operation
Following a storm, local and federal authorities advise homeowners to properly inspection both the interior, the basement or crawl space, and exterior of the home, heating roof vents and A/C components, prior to restoring power to the HVAC system.
Here are some other considerations that should take higher priority than the immediate restoration of interior comfort.
- After a severe storm passes, ensure that the outdoor A/C or heat pump components are not underwater or internally swamped with water before restoring power to the unit. If water swamping is noted, leave the power off and call an HVAC contractor to check the condition of the equipment.
- Inspect the outdoor unit to ensure that flying debris didn’t blow into the coil or fan which will prevent proper operation.
- Furnace vent pipes on the roof that exhaust combustion fumes may have been blown off or damaged so that fumes are not properly vented, causing dangerous carbon monoxide levels in the home. Proper inspection should precede restarting the furnace for the first time after a storm.
- Some severe storms may contaminate HVAC systems with water, bacteria or even sewage overflows that may accompany flooding. Heavy rain submerging crawl spaces or basements, or leaking into attics, can infiltrate ductwork and spawn bacterial or mold growth. And, when the system is restarted, air circulation may spread toxic contaminants throughout living spaces. If heating and cooling ductwork has been compromised during a storm, the services of an HVAC professional will be required.
- Change the air filter in the HVAC system immediately after a storm.
Contact Horizon Services
If damage to your system equipment prohibits restoration immediately after the storm, take proper precautions to sustain healthy home comfort first and foremost until a professional HVAC contractor can evaluate your specific situation. For instance, in the spring and summer, open windows and utilize box fans and ceiling fans to sustain air circulation. In the fall and winter, if your furnace is inoperative following the storm, utilize the warmth of the sun during the day, consider utilizing electric space heaters, and dress warmly.