How to Get Your HVAC System Ready for a Storm
Heating and cooling systems are built to withstand weather extremes. Even your HVAC’s outside condenser can withstand a fair amount of precipitation and heavy wind. However, if there’s a major storm system headed your way, it may need a bit of extra protection. Following is everything you need to know about getting the HVAC equipment in your Sacramento, CA home storm ready.
Store Backyard Items to Prevent Impact Damage
Temporarily store your patio furniture inside a sheltered area when high winds are expected. You don’t want anything crashing into your outdoor condenser unit. If you have a storage shed, load the chairs, umbrellas, tables, and flowerpots in there. You can also house them in your attic, garage, or basement.
Outdoor cooking equipment is a concern as well. If a major storm moves through, your mobile barbecue pit or meat smoker could go crashing into your air conditioner’s costly outdoor component. Many outdoor cooking appliances can be chained to posts or securely mounted in other ways. Larger, rolling barbecue pits often have manual brakes. If yours does, make sure that these are engaged and that the unit is securely braced. For extra protection, use an appropriate-sized wheel chock to stabilize it further.
After your patio furniture and outdoor appliances have been taken care of, take a trip through your back and side yards to make sure that all other movable items are either secure or stored. Collect large sticks, twigs, and broken branches, and remove these too. The less loose debris that’s left lying around, the less likely your AC condenser is to sustain impact damage.
Take Good Care of Your Roof
You may be surprised to discover that many aspects of getting your HVAC system ready for storms have less to do with your heating and cooling system’s components than they do with your overall property. Taking good care of your roof ahead of seasonal storms will obviously benefit the roof itself, but it can also prevent a number of common AC condenser damages. Loose roofing tiles and loose gutters and downspouts can come crashing down onto your condenser when the wind starts howling. Before the storm season arrives, schedule annual roofing maintenance. At the very least, you should be sure to have your gutters thoroughly cleaned. Blocked gutters can flood your AC condenser with water during times of heavy precipitation as they back up and overflow.
Have Weak, Dying, or Diseased Tree Branches Cut Down
Among the biggest hazards to AC condensers during storm season are poorly maintained trees. The more care that you take of your trees now, the less likely they’ll be to shed diseased, dying, or weak branches when subjected to strong winds. Hire an arborist to come and inspect your trees. In addition to removing at-risk limbs, this professional can also let you know whether or not unhealthy trees should be cut down. It’s always better to remove ailing trees voluntarily than it is to have them topple on their own.
Invest in Whole-House Surge Protection
Heavy wind can knock your power out. In fact, storms can cause power outages that span for miles. When power is restored, the resulting sudden surge in electricity could damage some or all of your appliances. Whole-house surge protection is well-worth its cost. The money that you save in a single power outage could easily match or exceed what you paid for it. This is especially true if you’re able to avoid HVAC damage by having whole-house surge protection installed.
However, when thunder and lightning are in the forecast, get ready to turn your HVAC system off. Although whole-house surge protection can limit HVAC damage caused by lightning strikes, it isn’t guaranteed to prevent it all of the time. You’ll minimize damage if there is no current flowing through the system if lightning strikes the house. But, if the outside condenser takes a direct hit, the components are ruined whether the electricity is on or not.
Consider the Benefits of a Condenser Cover
To use or not use condenser covers is a contentious subject indeed. Some AC manufacturers recommend them, and others outright prohibit them. Take a minute to read through your air conditioner’s manual before deciding to buy and use one. You may find that covering your condenser during a storm violates the terms of your manufacturer warranty. Alternatively, covering your condenser during a major weather event could be essential for keeping your warranty intact. Each model and manufacturer is different, so it’s important to know which requirements and restrictions apply to you.
Condenser covers are soft-sided, and they’re largely designed to keep water and windblown debris out of the unit. Although condensers are built to stand up well to heavy precipitation, too much water can definitely overwhelm them. A cover will limit rain exposure. Despite being soft-sided, these covers can also provide a fair amount of protection during hailstorms.
The most important thing to remember when using a condenser cover is that you should never leave one on for too long. Insufficient airflow and trapped moisture will eventually create the perfect conditions for mold formation and rust. When using a condenser cover, put it on just before a storm hits. Then, take it back off as soon as the weather system moves on. This will restore ventilation and give your condenser a chance to dry out completely.
It’s also important to note that the best cover for your air conditioner will always be one that’s been designed specifically for the model you own. This will have mesh or cutouts in areas that provide adequate, short-term ventilation for your equipment. You should never simply wrap your condenser in a sheet of plastic or cover it with a heavy tarp. These types of coverings provide absolutely no ventilation, and they cause more harm than they prevent, even if they’re only used for a limited amount of time.
Install Hard-sided Condenser Protection if Needed
Towering trees can pose a threat to your AC condenser even if they don’t have weak and dying limbs. Impact-related damage caused by conifers and fruit trees can be just as detrimental to outside HVAC equipment as passing hailstorms. Building a free-standing, hard-sided shelter around this unit will keep it both ventilated and protected year-round. The risk of hail damage will decline, and falling trees won’t be a constant fear.
Tighten Your Home’s Envelope to Limit HVAC Demand
As far as your heater goes, you’ll want to limit the amount of demand it’s subjected to by tightening up your home envelope. Even when outside temperatures aren’t excessively low, a strong wind could leave you cranking up your thermostat. To avoid this, seal up all gaps and cracks around your windows and doors. Make sure that your HVAC ductwork is in good condition too. You should also schedule your annual HVAC service so that your system is primed for what lies ahead.
Crystal Blue Plumbing Heating & Air has been serving residents of Sacramento, CA since 1976. We provide heating, cooling, and plumbing services installation, maintenance and repair services. We also offer duct maintenance and repairs, as well as indoor air quality products. We can help you prepare your home’s heating and cooling equipment for the challenges of the storm season. Call Crystal Blue in the Sacramento area now to get started!