Protecting HVAC From Terrible Twisters

Protecting HVAC from Tornados


This week has shown us once again that the weather in Alabama has the ability to be unpredictable. Our thoughts go out to all of those affected by the tornado touchdowns across the South, and it got us thinking…we all know that you’re supposed to have an emergency plan for staying safe during severe weather, but what can you do to help your home, specifically your HVAC components, ride out the storm?

The following tips will help you to keep this critical equipment safe whenever bad weather is on the way. Taking some preventative steps can help to eliminate costly replacements later.


Use Hurricane Straps

During a tornado, anything that isn’t secured to the ground is likely to end up as a projectile. This goes for the outdoor compressor unit of your air conditioner as well. The winds inside an F-2 tornado can exceed 115 m.p.h., while the strongest F-5 tornados can have winds over 300 m.p.h.! Trust us…the compressor will not stay put under those conditions.

Hurricane straps are metal strips that bolt your compressor to the concrete pad where it sits, keeping it securely in place under most severe weather conditions. If you have installed a new compressor in the past few years, it is likely that these straps may already be in place. Even if you have this equipment already on your compressor, it is important to double-check that the straps are secure and free of rust or other damage.


Stop The Power Surge

Tornados are usually spawned during severe storms that also produce a lot of lightning, and that lightening can sometimes be incredibly damaging as well. If your home does not have a properly grounded protection system installed, then the electricity from the strike will find the path of least resistance until it is grounded – that path is usually in the form of electrical wiring or metal pipes. When the extra electricity surges through your home and ends at an appliance – like you air conditioner – there is a real chance of the appliance being permanently damaged.

There are two ways to protect your HVAC system from electrical damage caused by storms. First, install a protection system including lightening rods that will help to channel any electricity in a safe way in the event of a direct strike. Second, install a whole home surge protector. These two systems working together will help to prevent costly electrical damage in the event of a severe storm.


Ensure Proper Drainage

With tornados often comes torrential rain, and extra standing water is no friend to HVAC components. A little flooding shouldn’t cause a problem – after all, condensers and heat pumps are built to spend their lives outdoors. But severe flooding that reaches the electrical components of the HVAC equipment can cause damage.

When doing routine maintenance around your home, double check that there is adequate drainage around your HVAC equipment – that gutters nearby are clear and draining away from both your home and the compressor/heat pump. If you see debris around that could potentially cause a drainage problem, remove it. Storms pop up quickly here in Alabama, so it’s always good to be prepared.


Prepare For Hail Damage

Tornados often bring another unpleasant surprise with them – hail. Small hail usually doesn’t pose a problem, but larger hail can definitely leave a few dents in your compressor/heat pump, and potentially cause damage that requires repair.

Covers are available that protect your outdoor HVAC equipment from both hail and torrential downpours, but make sure those covers are meant to be used with HVAC systems. Tarps are not an option – they impede airflow and cause more problems than they solve, including potential mold growth in your air conditioner.


Clear You Yard

Your compressor isn’t the only thing that can become a projectile during a tornado – any piece of lawn furniture, toys, potted plants, hoses, or freestanding décor can become a deadly weapon in high winds. And if your compressor or heat pump is in the path, it can suffer catastrophic damage.

When you know a severe storm is on the way, make sure that you secure or bring indoors anything that could potentially cause damage to your outdoor HVAC components or your home itself.


Shut It Down

There is some debate among HVAC professionals about whether or not you need to turn off your heating and cooling equipment during a bad storm. We fall into the category of, “It’s better to be safe than sorry.” While a home with a surge protector likely won’t experience any damage to an HVAC system that is left on during a storm, the cost of electrical damage to your equipment can be high, so why not play it safe?

If you happen to be at home when severe weather hits, it’s best to just turn off your heating and cooling system until the storm passes. For those who aren’t at home, be thankful that you had the foresight to install a lightning protection system and a whole home surge protector for peace of mind!


When In Doubt, Call A Pro

In the event that your HVAC system has suffered damage due to a tornado or severe storm, it’s best not to try and fix the damage yourself. This goes double for anything that could be electrical in nature – again, this is a problem that falls in the “better to be safe than sorry” category. If you are experiencing trouble with your system after a storm has gone through, give us a call at (205) 871-8111 and we will have a technician come out to assess the damage. Our techs know how to assess damaged systems safely and having a pro around will prevent potential injuries!