How to Protect Your Air Conditioner During a Hurricane

Hurricane Season

The Hurricane: nature’s super-soaker, blasts water and wind at startling speeds.

Storms are a normal part of life in the Sunshine State. Eventually, you will experience one or more of these super-storms which can wreak havoc on your home—and your AC system. It takes only one hurricane to cause extensive damage to your home, which can cost thousands of dollars.

Protection: A Little Planning Pays Off

If you’ve lived in Florida for a few years, you know that getting your home ready for a hurricane is a significant undertaking. But, don’t overlook the most frequently neglected step in that process: prepping your AC system.

Extreme humidity, dramatic changes in barometric pressure, extraordinary wind speeds, and remarkable amounts of rainfall can all impact your AC system. If storm surge and flooding accompany the storm, air quality may be compromised, and your home air conditioning system can be too.

Steps to Protecting Your AC from Hurricanes

There are 4 phases of protection based on the timing of the approach and passing of the storm, which enables you to be comfortable in your home and protective of your valuable AC system. These steps apply to Tropical Storms as well. The stages are:

1.    Preparation – as the storm approaches

2.    Prior – shortly before the storm hits

3.    During – as the storm is passing over your home

4.    After – immediately after the storm has safely passed

Phase 1: Preparation as a Hurrican Approaches

Your air conditioner can easily survive a hurricane with some simple steps of protection. If you don’t prepare, it’s possible your AC system might need replacing. High-speed winds can send debris flying against or even into your unit, and excessive water can damage electronics.

•    Begin “pre-cooling” your home by running the AC several degrees lower than you usually do to “chill” your home before turning off the system. How long? Run the system 4 to 8 hours before the time you will turn off the AC system.

•    Remove all objects near the AC unit (outdoor furniture, toys, tools, etc.)

•    Remove overhanging limbs near the AC unit.

•    Prepare a covering for your outside AC unit consisting of a tarp or plywood, or both. Plywood offers protection from projectiles such as lawn furniture or playground equipment. A tarp protects from excessive water and debris collecting in the condenser.

•    Note: Prepare the plywood or tarp – the next phase is when you will cover the AC unit.

•    Warning: NEVER run the AC if the outdoor unit is covered with plywood or a tarp.

Phase 2: Prior To The Hurricane Hitting

1.    Turn Off the Air Conditioner

It’s critical your air conditioner is off during a hurricane.

Running your AC unit during a storm can cause severe damage because of intermittent power interruptions. Erratic power failures create undue pressures and electrical surges on your compressor as well as other integral components of your air conditioning system. The severity of the damage may require expensive repairs or even replacement of the entire unit.

2.    Secure the cover on the outside unit (the condenser).

Place the plywood and tarp on the unit after you have turned the system off. Beware of lightning while covering the outside unit.

Phase 3: During the Hurricane

•    Don’t turn on your AC unit—even if the temperature is uncomfortable.

•    Stay alert to the possible impact of wind, rain, and flooding.

•    Be especially aware of lightning strikes to your home or AC unit.

•    Follow all guidelines of the National Hurricane Center.

Phase 4: What to do after a Hurricane Passes

After the storm has moved on, you should turn your AC on as soon as it is safely possible. Allowing the system to sit idle for too long allows mold and bacteria to begin multiplying in your system and ducts. Your home – which includes your AC system, has just experienced a high-moisture, extreme-heat weather event which creates the optimal conditions in which mold and bacteria thrive.

•    Carefully check for standing water around the unit. If possible, do this from the safety of your home. Ensure you’ve turned off all electricity and watch for downed power lines.

•    Carefully inspect your exterior AC unit before turning it on. If the storm has damaged your system, attempting to run it can worsen the extent of the harm.

•    Questions to ask before turning on the AC unit:

  • Are the fan and vents clear of debris?
  • Has the unit been hit by fallen trees or other windblown objects?
  • Can you detect any evidence of electrical smoke or an electrical smell?
  • Are all lines (refrigerant and electrical) intact, or is there damage?
  • Do you hear clicking sounds or loud buzzing noises coming from the AC unit?

•    If all of the above conditions and questions can be answered satisfactorily, turn on the AC system.

Ace AC of Ocala has years of experience in dealing with the damage tropical storms and hurricanes cause air conditioners. We highly recommend using a surge protector on your AC unit to protect your investment.

We’re here to help you keep your home comfortably cool, but also to ensure that your family is safe after a storm.

Contact us at 352-251-3926 if you experience damage or want to schedule installation of a surge protector.