Why is it important to turn off your air conditioner during a thunderstorm?
Lightning Strikes - While lightning strikes to the home are rare, they are an undeniable possibility during a storm. The electrical service drop, where your utility lines connect to the house on the roof, is a very vulnerable point for lightning strikes. If lightning strikes at this point, it can cause a significant power surge through your home’s electrical system. As much as five billion joules of energy can be sent through your home’s wiring before the breakers are triggered to trip — in this fraction of a second, the surge can cause serious damage to your air conditioner if it is in operation.
Air Conditioner Damage - The damage caused by a lightning strike can render your air conditioner unusable. It can melt the plug to your unit. The air conditioner’s control panel is full of sensitive electrical circuitry which can be damaged, requiring an extensive repair or even replacement of the entire unit. The system’s controls can be corrupted to the entire heating and cooling system if a lighting strike occurs when the system is operating.
What about debris?
If the wind is swirling, chances are debris can be a big problem for your HVAC system. Living in Florida means you know the power of hurricane force winds. Most of us know the damage wind can cause. BEFORE the storm, make sure the area surrounding your AC is free from low hanging branches, limbs, yard waste, etc. You do not want any of this flying into your cooling system.
How Do I Protect My Air Conditioner?
Unfortunately, surge protectors don’t provide the level of protection needed against a surge caused by a lightning strike, so plugging your AC into one won’t have the benefits you expect. If you happen to live in the area with a high occurrence of lightning strikes, you can protect your air conditioner by installing a protection system. Using lightning rods, conductors and ground rods, you’ll be creating an alternate path for lightning to reach the ground so lightning won’t travel through the home’s electrical system. These systems aren’t 100 percent effective at preventing surges, so it is best to still keep your air conditioner off when storms pop up.