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What to do with Central Air During Storms?

What to do with your central air during Storms?  Should you turn off your air conditioner during a storm?

If it’s a central air conditioning unit, you don’t really need to turn it off due to hail.

  • When a storm threatens, remove any loose objects such as patio furniture, children’s toys, barbecue grilles and the like from the vicinity of the outdoor HVAC unit. In high wind conditions, these objects can become flying missiles that could damage the vulnerable condenser coil.
  • Cut back encroaching vegetation that could produce leaves and other debris that might clog vents and prevent the unit from proper drainage.
  • Consider turning off the unit during the storm and covering it with a canvas that fits over the entire outdoor cabinet to keep out a deluge of rain. Before restarting the system after the storm, make sure that the cover is removed.

Homeowners play an important role in preventing storm-related electrical damage to HVAC equipment. At the minimum, when a storm threatens, sensible HVAC preparedness means turning off the air conditioner or furnace at the thermostat. Better yet, homeowners could switch off the power to both the indoor and outdoor units at the circuit breaker that controls those units.

  • Install whole-house surge suppression equipment. This equipment can be installed at central locations such as the main electrical panel, and/or individual suppressors can be installed at locations such as the air handler and the outdoor compressor/condenser unit.
  • Install a programmable thermostat with time-delay technology. A time delay prevents the system from restarting after a momentary power failure until a certain time interval, usually five minutes, has elapsed. This allows sufficient time for power from the grid to stabilize after an outage and reduces the possibility of damaged HVAC equipment due to voltage spikes.
  • Install a standby generator to keep part or your entire home powered-up even if grid power is interrupted by a storm. These units are typically mounted behind or at the side of the house and often run off the home’s natural gas or propane supply, which is seldom affected by storm conditions. A standby generator constantly senses grid power and, in the event of an interruption, automatically starts and switches part or all of the home circuits over to generator power to keep systems such as HVAC equipment energized.