Summer Thunderstorms: Is your HVAC prepared for Power Outages?
Summer has arrived in Jacksonville, FL and with it, severe thunderstorms. During the summer, especially in the afternoons, thunderstorms develop as a result of instability in the atmosphere. Sometimes these storms grow to severe levels. The high winds, lightning and torrential rains that come out of thunderstorms can wreak havoc on the HVAC system. Taking steps to protect the system and be prepared for severe weather could help protect your safety and comfort.
Why Thunderstorms Are Dangerous for HVAC Systems
When a thunderstorm develops, it can release energy in the form of lightning. Bolts of lightning travel at the speed of light and can extend from 10 to 12 miles away from the storm. Once you start to hear thunder, a lightning strike is possible. Lightning strikes carry an average electric current of 30,000 amperes, which is enough to destroy the electronic components of an HVAC system. The temperature of lightning is 54,000F (30,000C), which is about five times hotter than the surface of the sun. This is more than hot enough to melt the metal components of an air conditioner or heat pump. In addition to the damage caused by a direct or nearby lightning strike, thunderstorms can also cause HVAC system damage from rain and heavy winds.
Preparing for Severe Weather
Since thunderstorms are such a common occurrence in Florida, homeowners would be wise to prepare for severe weather in advance. Some steps to take include:
- Purchase a weather radio and program it to your community.
- Download severe weather warning apps for your smartphone or tablet.
- Maintain a current and well stocked emergency supplies kit.
- Go inside when you hear thunder.
- When a severe thunderstorm watch is announced, bring in any objects from outdoors that could become airborne and strike the HVAC system.
- Unplug the HVAC system before the storm hits your area.
Protecting Your HVAC System from Electrical Outages
You can take steps before, during and after a storm to protect it from power outages and other damage.
- Shut off the circuit breaker that supplies power to the system. Unplug the power cable to the unit to prevent current from flowing into it if the house is struck by lightning.
- The unit itself may attract lightning. Do not touch it when a storm is in the area.
- Assess the damage after the storm has passed. Do not approach the unit if there are power lines down on or near it.
- Keep the system shut off and unplugged until power is restored. A surge of power could “fry” it.
If your HVAC system is damaged as a result of a severe thunderstorm, professional service is needed. Give us a call at Merritt Heating & Air Conditioning any time. We will come right out and assess the situation.