How Storms Can Damage Your HVAC Unit

A violent storm with strong winds, thunder, rain or hail can disturb your outdoor HVAC unit. While most HVAC systems are designed to withstand severe weather elements, they’re not completely impervious to storm-related damage, especially if they’re located in an area predisposed to standing water. In this article, our HVAC installation experts at Custom Air Systems reveal telltale signs that your HVAC unit has been impaired by a storm, what to do if you suspect storm damage and how to prevent damage in the first place.

How Do Storms Affect Your HVAC System?

You can avoid a premature HVAC breakdown and other damage-related problems by understanding the signs to look for which indicate you need to schedule a service with an experienced HVAC technician soon. If your condenser—the outdoor unit of an air conditioner or heat pump that releases or collects heat—is about to experience failure, you may notice the following warning signs:

Your air conditioner isn’t powering back on. When your area suddenly regains power after a blackout during a storm, your air conditioning system may suffer damage from a power surge. Most times, a spike in electricity can cause problems inside your air conditioner, like severe wear and tear on internal components, and you may not be able to detect them for months. Usually, the circuit breaker will protect your system from such damage by turning off the power when an overload is detected, and all you’ll need to do is reset it. If your air conditioner fails to start back up, then you may have to bring in a professional to inspect your air conditioner and repair the issue.

Your air conditioner isn’t cooling your home very well. Does your house feel warmer than usual? If the air coming out of your vents isn’t as cold as it was before the storm, there’s a chance that your air conditioning system has sustained damage due to powerful winds. In particular, the refrigerant lines—the tubes that carry refrigerant between the indoor evaporator coil and the outdoor air conditioner—may be leaking. If this is the case, don’t attempt to repair or refill the refrigerant fluid. Instead, turn off the HVAC system and let an HVAC installation technician assess the situation. The more refrigerant your unit loses, the more difficult it will be to deliver sufficient cooling to your home, decreasing the performance and efficiency of your system. It will also raise your utility bills; not to mention, refrigerant leaks can be harmful to your health and hazardous to the environment.

Your air conditioner is making weird noises. Strong winds can shove loose debris into your outdoor HVAC unit. If you hear rattling or buzzing noises, there may be stones, twigs or branches trapped inside the condenser that are being moved around by the fans. This can increase the strain on other internal components, such as the compressor, as well. If your air conditioner is designed for user maintenance, you can clean out the outdoor unit by opening the exterior housing. If it ever starts screeching, shut it down and call for maintenance service immediately.

There’s pooling water around the outdoor unit. One of the most obvious indications of condenser damage is flooding. While the outdoor unit of your air conditioning system is designed to be water-resistant, it can’t survive when submerged in floodwater for extended periods of time. If you see water accumulating around your condenser, switch it off at the circuit breaker to minimize the chance of electrical shock. Afterward, you’ll need to address the drainage issue since stagnant water can wreak havoc on the foundation of your house. It’s also a smart move to get your ducts cleaned to prevent condensation and ensure that mold and other microorganisms won’t grow and spread inside the duct system, which is responsible for circulating air throughout your living space.

What to Do If Your HVAC Unit Has Sustained Storm Damage

If you suspect that there’s damage to your heating and air conditioning system after a powerful storm has subsided, here are important steps you should take.

Inspect your air conditioning system for damage. First off, visually inspect the outdoor unit of your air conditioning system for any apparent signs of exterior damage to the equipment. Make sure all exterior electrical components are in good condition and remove any windswept debris, such as dirt, leaves and sticks, clinging to the unit. If you covered the condenser with a tarp prior to the storm, take it off to allow the unit to dry completely.

Review your homeowners insurance policy. Your homeowners insurance may help cover your air conditioning system if it’s damaged by something listed in your policy document. Your coverage may help repair or replace built-in equipment like a central air conditioning system if damaged by hail. Make sure to contact your insurance provider to better understand what your policy covers. If you file a claim, an adjuster will visit your home to evaluate the damage and calculate the cost of repairs

Contact an HVAC technician. While not all maintenance and repairs, like cleaning coils and removing debris, need to be performed by a qualified air conditioning technician, keep in mind that severe weather can lead to hidden damage within your air conditioning system, especially the electrical components. An HVAC contractor will thoroughly assess the affected unit and provide an estimate of the cost of necessary repairs or replacement parts.

How to Protect Your HVAC System From Storms

Here are some essential tips to help minimize the extent of storm-related damage to your outdoor HVAC unit and reduce the subsequent repair or replacement costs.

Install a surge protector. If you don’t already have a surge protector installed, consider buying one. It will protect your electrical devices from voltage spikes by diverting excess electricity.

Turn off your air conditioner. Shortly before a storm hits your neighborhood, shut down your air conditioning unit at the thermostat and circuit breaker to reduce the risk of a blowout when the electricity comes back on.

Cover your condenser unit. After turning off the power to your air conditioner, cover your outdoor unit with a weatherproof tarp designed to protect HVAC units from flying debris and water damage.

Secure your condenser unit. Most new condenser units come with tie-down straps to secure the equipment to the concrete it rests on. Confirm that your system has these straps and be sure that the metal components aren’t rusted.

Clear away debris. Hurricanes and tropical storms tend to be very forceful in terms of wind speed. Because of this, it’s best to move your patio and lawn furniture somewhere where it won’t be affected by high winds, or at least make sure they’re tightly secured. Sweep dirt, leaves and other debris away from the condenser unit to prevent them from getting trapped inside and causing damage.

Contact Us for All Your Heating and Cooling Needs

You can count on Custom Air Systems for high-quality heating, ventilation and air conditioning solutions. Our certified technicians can provide cleaning, tune-ups and repair, regular maintenance and more. We’ll keep your system safe, clean and running at optimal efficiency using industry-leading products and outstanding workmanship. To set up an appointment or request a free, no-obligation estimate, call us at (281) 426-0067. You may also reach us by filling out our contact form.