Storms bringing thunder and lightning aren’t uncommon in Texas, especially in spring. Most homeowners are happy to wait out the storms inside their homes, however many may not know the threat that thunderstorms can bring to their HVAC systems.
The lightning that comes with Texas thunderstorms can wreak havoc on your air conditioner. The lightning itself rarely hurts your system directly, but the power surges that follow outages caused by lightning strikes can end up causing damage.
How Lightning Can Damage Your Air Conditioner
When lightning strikes cause a power surge, any damage to your air conditioner might not be immediately noticeable. Over time issues will become apparent and can even be dangerous. Below are some of the parts most commonly damaged by power surges following lightning strikes.
Power surges can cause electrical wires in your unit to get burned. Burned out electrical wires in your air conditioner or home can cause appliances to malfunction and stop working altogether.
Damaged electrical wires in your air conditioner can cause fuses to blow or breakers to trip whenever your unit tries to come on. When this happens both wires and fuses will have to be replaced.
This is one of the most common parts to be damaged by a power surge following a lightning strike. The capacitor supplies electrical energy to your air conditioner’s compressor, fan, and blower, so when it is damaged it brings your entire AC to a halt.
Damaged Control Boards
Control boards have very sensitive electronic components that are easily damaged beyond repair in an electrical storm. Also, control boards can be very expensive components to replace and are often not in stock and must be ordered, so you may not get your system repaired right away.
Compressor damage is not always immediately obvious and it might take some time before it fails. When it does, the compressor is one of the most costly parts to have replaced in your air conditioner. Damage to the compressor often happens due to damage to the capacitor.
How To Protect Your Air Conditioner From Lightning
Knowing all of the damage that lightning can cause through power surges, you may be already dreading the next thunderstorm. Fortunately, there are several ways to protect your air conditioner during lightning storms in order to prevent damage.
Use Surge Suppressors
Protect appliances by installing outlet surge suppressors between outlets and electrical appliances. Just like it sounds, surge suppressors help control electrical surges in your home caused by lightning strikes or other power interruptions.
Use Panel-Mounted Surge Protection
If you want to take a step up from outlet surge suppressors, you can install panel-mounted surge protection. This helps protect your house’s electrical gateway in the event of power surges and keeps the wiring in your home, and air conditioner, safe.
Turn Off Your AC at the Breaker
The simplest and most effective way to keep your air conditioner safe is to turn off at the breaker during lightning storms. When the unit is off it is less likely to be damaged by any sudden power surges caused by the storm. If you don’t know where your breakers are located or don’t feel comfortable switching them off, you can shut the system off at the thermostat. This will not protect all of your components but is much better than if the system is left running during the storm.
Inspections After A Lightning Storm
You have the tools now to start protecting your air conditioner during storms, but you might be wondering “what if I forget and there is a power surge? How do I know if my AC has been damaged?” That’s a great question because, as mentioned earlier, some damage caused by lightning isn’t immediately apparent and can continue hurting your unit if the damage isn’t repaired. The best way to check if your unit is still in working condition after a storm is to call your local HVAC expert and get a quick inspection.
You should have your HVAC system inspected annually to prevent problems from developing and to maintain your warranty. You should also have the unit inspected after a lightning strike that likely caused a power surge. Professional HVAC technicians will be able to tell you for sure whether your unit is ready to run or if it needs repairs.
Experienced a lightning storm recently and unsure if your air conditioner was damaged? Call the experts at AirOne Heating & Air Conditioning to schedule an inspection to ensure that your unit is safe.