Hurricane season officially kicked off on June 1st. Running through the summer and into the early fall, the threat of a heavy storm makes many homeowners nervous. Even a mild hurricane will wreak havoc as it skirts the coast, leaving costly property damage in its wake. And the costs of hurricane damage are only expected to increase over the next several decades.
While we hope that we won’t be visited by any destructive nor’easter this season, it is always best to be prepared. Since heavy storms are known for their unpredictability, residents need to prepare for the potential wind damage and heavy rains that could hit their homes and communities during the summer storm season.
If you live along the coastline, you are probably already familiar with how to prepare for an approaching hurricane. Most homeowners know to secure outdoor furniture and tape windows to prevent shattering glass. Many homeowners, however, aren’t aware of steps they can take to safeguard their HVAC unit from potential storm damage.
Protecting Your HVAC Unit During Hurricane Season
Your HVAC unit is one of your home’s most valuable appliances. Protecting such an important asset should be a high priority, especially when a dangerous storm is approaching your area. Here are some steps to take to give your HVAC unit a better chance of weathering the storm.
As the Storm Approaches
Once you know a major storm is heading toward your area, it’s time to start taking precautionary measures. If a storm becomes an imminent threat, it is time to shut down your air conditioning system. Turn off your home’s HVAC unit either at the master shut-off switch or the main circuit breaker. This may seem like a drastic measure, but it will protect your unit from power surges and shorting out during flooding.
Also, cover your unit in order to protect your HVAC unit from storm debris, falling tree limbs, and excessive rain. One option is to simply secure a heavy-duty tarp over the unit. This helps keep the inside of your unit dry and shields it from flying debris. Make sure that the tarp is securely fastened to the ground or to a solid stationary object. Remember that high winds usually accompany hurricanes and you don’t want your tarp to fly away in the wind. It will only protect your unit if it remains in place for the duration of the storm.
If you live right along the coast or in a particularly storm-prone area, consider building a permanent protective box around your air conditioner. Just make sure that it is well-ventilated so your unit can properly function. This permanent protection decreases the chance of your HVAC being damaged in a hurricane. It also makes your storm preparations simpler since you won’t have to put up protection before every approaching storm.
You also need to take measures if your home is cooled with a window unit. Before the storm hits your area, unplug your window unit and simply bring it inside where it will be safest from potential storm damage.
After the Storm Has Passed
Once the storm has moved off, it is tempting to just flip the switch to turn on your AC as if nothing happened. Resist the temptation, because there still may be a risk of damaging your HVAC unit. There could be unseen water inside of your unit. Also, dirt and debris may be lodged in the fan or duct work. It is also possible that coolant or electrical lines could have been damaged in the storm.
Have an HVAC professional come out to inspect your unit before you turn it on. He or she can make sure that your unit is safe to operate.
If your HVAC unit does become damaged during a bad nor-easter, you should check with your homeowner’s insurance to see if the damage is covered. If you live in a particularly hot area, you can use a portable unit to keep your home cool and comfortable until your unit is replaced or repaired. Also, having a portable generator on hand will help run necessary appliances during extended power outages that often follow a storm.
If you have any questions, need help preparing your unit before a storm, or require repairs in the aftermath, be sure to call a professional HVAC technician. They are most qualified to keep one of your home’s most valuable assets running smoothly.