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Is Your Air Conditioner Hurricane-Safe?

Updated: August 22, 2016

Hurricane Satellite Image - Courtesy of NOAA

Historically, the majority of named storms occur during the month of September, making it the height of the hurricane season. Now is a good time for us Southwest Florida residents to make sure we have our hurricane preparation plans in place. But, in your storm strategies, don’t overlook one item that’s both costly and integral to your home comfort. Of course, we’re talking about your air conditioner.

During a hurricane, your condensing unit (a.k.a. the outdoor portion of your air conditioner) is at the mercy of wind-blown debris, flooding and lightning strikes. A tropical system doesn’t have to be particularly ferocious in order to cause damage to an improperly secured air conditioner. If you’ve replaced your unit within the last few years, you know that this appliance represents a sizable investment. Whether your HVAC equipment is old or new, you don’t want to face the possibility of going without air conditioning in the wake of a tropical disaster. Especially when this scenario is preventable.

Protecting Your Air Conditioner

Tie-Down Straps

So, how do you protect your air conditioner from the coming storm? Your air conditioning contractor may have already given you a head start. If you’ve had a new air conditioner installed recently, chances are your unit has been secured to its concrete base by way of tie-down straps. These tie-downs are wind-resistant up to 150 mph, and will prevent your unit from being yanked off its base and tossed around by high winds. For the past several years, HVAC contractors have been required by building code to include tie-down straps on any new air conditioner they install.

Air Conditioner Hurricane Tie Down Strap
Hurricane Tie-Down Strap
Installed on a Condensing Unit

Surge Protectors

At Kobie Complete, we also provide a surge protector with any new A/C installation. We know that, as well as wind, lightning poses a threat of damage to your air conditioner – and not only during a hurricane. Lightning damage can occur during any of the summer electrical storms common here in Southwest Florida. The high-quality surge arresters we install will absorb and divert the barrage of excess electricity in order to protect your air conditioner. Installing surge protectors is not required by building code. This is just a service we offer because we feel it’s important to help you protect your investment in any way we can.

Here are some things you can do to prepare your air conditioner for a hurricane:

  • Check to see if your condensing unit has tie-down straps (see photo on the right). If you have an older unit (from the 1990’s or earlier), your HVAC contractor may not have installed tie-down straps.
  • If your unit has tie-down straps, check to make sure they have not rusted or deteriorated.
  • Invest in a surge protector (this is a good idea not only for your air conditioner, but also for all of your major household appliances).
  • Trim any large tree branches close to your air conditioner. These branches could break off during high winds and cause damage to your condensing unit.

When a hurricane is approaching, here are a few tips to help your air conditioner weather the storm:

  • Turn off the air conditioner. Be sure to switch off both the thermostat and the breaker. The unit could otherwise be damaged by constant power interruptions during the storm.
  • Remove any loose articles like patio furniture or other outdoor items from around your condensing unit. These items can become missiles during the storm. Don’t store any loose items around your unit, even if the area is walled off on three sides.
  • Cover your condenser with a tarp. Although this won’t protect your unit against flooding, it will provide a layer of protection from flying debris.

After the storm has passed, follow these tips to ensure that you can safely begin to operate your air conditioner again:

  • Your should turn on your air conditioner as soon as possible to avoid mold growth in your home and ducts. But first, inspect your condenser carefully.
  • When it is safe, go outside and inspect your condensing unit for any obvious damage and carefully remove any debris that might have piled against or on top of it.
  • If your unit has been underwater, if you see any damage to the refrigerant or electrical lines or if there is any sign of smoke, do not attempt to turn on your unit. Contact your air conditioning contractor as soon as you can to have them inspect the unit.
  • When in doubt as to whether your unit is safe for operation, contact your air conditioning contractor.

Have questions about your air conditioner’s hurricane safety?

As a well-established Southwest Florida air conditioning company, we have the experience to help you prepare your air conditioner for a hurricane or help you get your system up and running again after a storm. If you’re in our service area, which includes Sarasota, Venice, Englewood, North Port, Port Charlotte and Punta Gorda, including the barrier islands, call us today. We’ll be glad to answer your questions.

(941) 474-3691

Let’s all hope that the major storms will pass us by this year. But whatever happens, it never hurts to be prepared. We hope that this guide will help you protect your air conditioner through this hurricane season and in future seasons.

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