It’s the first sight of spring in northeast Indiana—birds begin to chatter, flowers peek out of the snow-crusted ground, and cumulus clouds rove overhead.
It’s also the rainy season, and while your winter-parched garden might appreciate the refreshing stream of excess water, your HVAC unit is another story. Generally, HVAC technicians do not service units in the rain for safety purposes, which means you don’t want to be waiting for repairs when a storm hits.
Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to avoid a system breakdown, and costly repairs. Without further ado, here are some actionable tips for keep HVAC system in tip-top shape through the spring showers.
Precautions before the storm
Even if you don’t live in an extremely flat area, it’s a best practice to not leave your outdoor unit resting on the ground. Instead, you can use a solid pad that elevates your unit several inches above the ground level. Doing so should protect your system if flooding should occur. These pads, often referred to as condenser pads, are specifically designed to raise units, so you should not have any trouble finding one at the store.
This is the time to account for your landscaping too. The land should be graded so that in the event of a severe storm, groundwater will flow away from the condenser pad rather than surrounding it. To ensure that there are not additional sources that could flood your unit, also check to see if you need to repair a gutter or redirect a downspout.
You might be asking yourself if it’s safe to run your heater or air conditioner during a rainstorm. If the unit is not at risk of flood or submerged in water, then the answer is yes. If either event has occurred or you suspect water damage, then turn off the outdoor system at the electrical panel. This is the best course of action you can take to protect your unit’s electrical components and motor. Once you cut the electricity to the unit, do not turn it back on until you’ve had a professional inspect for any damage.
Avoid covering your unit
We want to make it clear that it’s not the rain itself that will damage your outdoor unit. From rain to snow to a little bit of hail, your outdoor system is built to withstand extreme conditions. All the electrical components are sealed from the rain using corrosion-proof materials, including copper, aluminum, and plastics.
As a quick overview of your unit parts, your A/C uses heat pump technology to bring heat from inside your home to the outdoors. Most households in the United States use a “split system” for their heating and cooling needs. This means that one unit is housed inside and the other stays outside. The indoor unit consisted of an evaporator and coil while the key components of the outdoor unit include a compressor and condenser.
However, excess moisture in the form of floods, standing water, or water inside your system’s internal components can wreak havoc on your unit.
During a torrential downpour, it’s tempting to bring a tarp or some other covering to the rescue. The problem with this knee jerk reaction is that it cuts off your unit’s ventilation. Retaining excess moisture is a recipe for rusted coils, mold, and mildew—a deadly trio that weakens your components and accelerates a system breakdown. Trapping condensation in your unit also creates an open invitation for insects and vermin to lay their nests.
Protect against debris and other hazards
As we touched on before, while your outdoor unit is hardy in the face of harsh weather conditions, it’s not invincible. Wind-blown debris poses much more of a threat to your system than scattered showers. Aside from damage to the outdoor coil, any stray debris or vegetation inside the unit could impede your coil from properly exchanging heat to the outdoors, driving up your electric bill. To protect against any fallen limbs or windswept debris, you can place a board on top of your unit and steady it with a brick as an alternative to completely covering your unit.
Following the storm, also check for any damage to your condenser’s fins. The fins are the thin and parallel metal slats that you’ll find along the exterior of your outdoor unit, and their job is to release heat from your A/C’s refrigerant. Severely bent fins restrict airflow, which means your evaporator coil in your indoor unit won’t be able to collect sufficient heat from the air. This results in diminished cooling performance, which is not what you want as temperatures start to rise!
As a rule of thumb, we recommend having a certified technician inspect your unit to after a severe storm to check for less obvious internal damage.
Take care of your indoor unit
Since your indoor unit is not built to withstand the elements, a flooded basement does not bode well. If your indoor unit is affected by water—or worse—standing water, you run the risk of your electrical circuits shortening out, thus damaging the wiring, motors, and electronics.
If this occurs, turn off the system from the main circuit panel, not simply the thermostat. Just as with the outdoor unit, do not turn on the system again until a professional has inspected it.
Any roof leakage or flooding in your crawl space leaves your ducts susceptible to damage as well.
Water could remain in your ducts long after the storm, which can lead to mold and mildew growing within. With deteriorated joints, it will be harder to pass warm or cold air into your home, which leads to more expensive unit use.
If you notice your house has taken on a musty smell lately, a mold infestation is likely the culprit. Not only does this contamination compromise your air quality, but also puts you and your family’s health at risk. Asthmatic individuals can have severe reactions if exposed to large mold concentrations. In cases like this you’ll want to call a technician to advise you on next steps, not just trying to clean the ducts yourself.
Be prepared if the power goes out
Since we’re on the topic of stormy season, you’ll want to be prepared for a power outage in addition to heavy rains.
While it might be a minor inconvenience to sit around in the dark for a couple hours, it’s a much different story for the perishable food you stocked up on, a beloved aquarium reliant on electrical power, or anyone in the household who uses personal medical equipment.
Rather than risk an outage, you can invest in a generator designed to automatically restore power within seconds. You’ll also want to make sure that the model you select is safe for sensitive electronic hardware like laptops, TVs, and game systems. Additionally, there are many models that run relatively quietly as well, so you don’t have a rough night’s sleep through the storm. With a clean and stable energy supply, you won’t break a sweat if the wind starts howling or the power grid overloads.
Whether you want a partial or full home generator, we can install either to the proper specification. We also provide maintenance contracts to keep your backup system under warranty in case you need it. If you’re interested in a free quote, you can easily contact us, or take some time to learn more about our residential electrical services. When you reach out to us, a technician can also consult you on what size system works best for your family’s needs.
Be ready for the rainy forecast
Now you’re equipped to handle the rainy season by avoiding costly repairs—and the inconvenience of waiting inside a cold or humid house until the storm passes. From simple precautions to routine maintenance, you can easily keep your system running efficiently no matter what the forecast throws at you. If water damage has occurred, you suspect leakage, or you are hesitant to turn on your unit again after a storm, do not hesitate to contact us for a second opinion.