How To Prevent HVAC System Damage During A Hurricane

At the time of writing this article we have Hurricane Irma targeting the eastern coast of Florida as the second strongest Atlantic hurricane ever recorded in NOAA history. Our first thoughts are prayers and hope to all those that will be affected by this tremendous storm. We have a few days for the course to change and this article we be updated if that does change, but we also think it’s a good time to discuss preparedness for this disaster. While the news agencies in Florida will give you valuable information on preparing your family and yourselves for the upcoming storm, not many tell you the simple steps to take in regards to your HVAC equipment.

What Steps Should I Take to Prepare for a Hurricane?

As a homeowner during any hurricane and particular one as large and dangerous as Irma, several key things should be done. Taking preventative measures ahead of time can save you valuable time and money after the disaster. They can also help alleviate some of the potential fallout after the disaster living you and your family in a better situation.

  • Check if the outside component of your HVAC system, typically referred to as the compressor unit is bolted down to a concrete block. Preferably this concrete block should extend several inches out from below the HVAC unit. The unit should be bolted down with metallic right angle brackets commonly referred to as “Hurricane Straps”. This process prevents wind from moving or pushing your HVAC unit around. Hurricane straps do not provide complete protection and most concrete pads are not solid concrete fixtures either. However the combined effect can help diminish average hurricane wind speed effects. Be wary of cheaply made hurricane straps if you DIY this concept, which at Professional A/C and Heating, Inc. we do not endorse in anyway. Always call a professional air conditioning technician. If you find your HVAC unit is not properly secured call us ASAP. We can get to you quickly and at a reasonable cost properly secure your unit before the storm. If you have a package unit this information still applies, the only difference is the size of your concrete pad and the number of hurricane straps needed increases.
  • When the storm reaches the height of its destructive power you may experience intermittent power outages. Before this happens or immediately after it happens the first time you should turn off your HVAC unit at the circuit box. By Florida law all HVAC units should be assigned on a separate circuit from the rest of the home. When viewing your circuit breaker box you will usually see a larger dual grip safety breaker that controls the unit. This should be pushed into an off position. Now this will causes your unit to turn off but this is a necessary discomfort. The most expensive part of any HVAC unit is always the compressor. In the event of catastrophic electrical damage such as lightning or surges you need to prevent the compressor from being affected. By turning the circuit off you remove a link between the power grid and your compressor helping to alleviate one potential source of damage. If you discover that your electrical box does not contain a separate breaker for your HVAC unit call us immediately. Our on staff electricians can be there quickly and find a proper solution for you.
  • Another often overlooked preventative tool is whole house surge protectors. Often confused with surge protector strips purchased for use in a room the whole house solution functions slightly different. Usually around the size of a brick they need to be installed by a licensed electrician. Never under any circumstance try to install a home surge protector yourself. Mistakes can lead to property damage and/or death. These devices act as a intermediary between the outside power grid and your breaker box. When a power surge approaches the device it will destroy a very sensitive filament within the device with no threat of fire or damage. By destroying this filament the circuit is broken and the home behind the circuit does not receive the power surge. This type of device can save much more then your HVAC system is a great addition to all homes in Florida. Depending on the type of surge protector and build they might even have multiple stages of failure allowing for additional usages after the first surge. Typically though they are replaced after saving your home the first time.

After the Storm Passes

You want to do a few check ups of your HVAC system to prevent any additional issues from popping up during clean up efforts. You have just survived a dramatic experience and the last thing you need is a nasty surprise. Take the time to do it right.

  • Once it is safe to step outside make sure to do a visual inspection of your outside HVAC unit. Do all this while your unit is still powered down and/or disconnected from the house via the breaker. Use a hose to spray any debris off the unit that may have become trapped in the vents. Make sure nothing has penetrated the outer shell of the unit. If debris has collected within the fan area make sure it is properly removed. Check for movement of the unit, make sure the hoses extending from the home into your HVAC unit have not become pinched, cut or trapped. If the unit has broken any straps call an HVAC professional for a full inspection before turning the unit on. Check the drain pipe that it is free of debris and not caked in mud. Your outside unit should be free of debris, immobile and free of large holes and/or large dents before it is operated. Not following these guidelines can cause a simple issue to inflate into a massive repair.
  • Check that you have no leaks that interfere with your inside fan unit. This is a dangerous area and if you are not comfortable you should call a professional immediately. Never turn your HVAC unit on if there is leaking anywhere near your inside fan unit. The top portion of condenser sleeve box will contain extremely high voltage connections that can cause extreme harm and/or death if exposed. If you see any water leaks never the fan box do not reconnect the breaker to main power. You run the risk of shorting the unit and causing damage. Call a professional air conditioning technician and/or one of our electricians as well to solve the issue for you. Safety should be your primarily concern always.
  • Check for leaks that occur near your circuit breaker as well. Any water that pools or drips near your circuit breaker is potentially a source of injury and/or death. Do not under any circumstance reconnect power when water is located near your circuit breaker. If you observe a situation like this immediately call your local power company. Do not attempt to physically touch or approach a wet circuit breaker.

When in doubt always call us up. Our customer service representatives can answer questions, connect you to a professionally licensed technician and get someone out to your home to rectify situations for you in a safe and comfortable way. Whether you are prepping for the storm or you are cleaning up after the storm you can always rely on Professional A/C and Heating, Inc. to help your family reach a safe situation.