The hot, humid weather that makes us want to fire up our air conditioners is also weather that is prone to thunderstorms. The idea that a nearby lightning strike can affect your home’s HVAC unit is a legitimate concern. But running your AC during a thunderstorm can lead to some serious damage.
We know what you’re thinking: “Turn off my AC during hot weather? No way!” We’re sorry to inform you that the best way to prevent lightning damage to your air conditioning system is to shut it off during thunderstorms. But the good news is humidity and temperatures can drop during thunderstorms, so it’s not so bad now, is it?
Make no mistake about it: damage caused by a lightning strike can kill your air conditioner, which is full of sensitive electrical circuitry. (FREESTYLE ALERT!) This could lead to a costly air conditioning repair, and that’s when you know it’s time to call Super Heat & Air! (Pretty slick, huh?)
But anyway, an air conditioner’s system controls can be corrupted if a lightning strike occurs while the system is operating. It may not damage your HVAC unit right away. But the power surges that follow an outage from a thunderstorm can mess up your air conditioner. Power surges create a spike in voltage that can damage appliances and electronics. The effects of lightning strikes on an air conditioning unit may not be immediately noticeable. However, you may experience poor performance from your unit over time.
Lightning strikes can create a plethora of problems for your air conditioning unit, including a damaged capacitor. It’s one of the parts most commonly affected by lightning and one of the most common problems associated with a damaged air conditioner. Basically if the capacitor goes, the compressor will soon follow.
A compressor is one of the most expensive parts of an air conditioner to fix or replace. And it can take months for an air conditioning system to fail after the compressor has been damaged. A spike in voltage could also cause the breaker to trip or fuses to blow due to damaged electrical lines. A power surge can burn electrical wires within the air conditioner or within your home, which could lead to air conditioning unit failure.
Ever seen an abstinence PSA, where they say the best protection from pregnancy or STDs is abstinence? The same principle can be applied here: the best way to protect your HVAC unit is to abstain from using it during a storm. That means there is lightning protection out there for your AC. But unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot you can do to prevent a direct lightning strike from damaging your air conditioner during a thunderstorm. We can’t predict when or where lightning will strike. However, there are protective measures you can take to reduce the risk of damage.
One measure you can take is surge protection for your entire home. Surge protection is a great idea and a wise investment. However, it may not provide enough protection alone against a lightning strike. Aside from surge protectors, you can have lightning rods, conductors and ground rods installed to create an alternate path for lightning to reach the ground and prevent it from traveling through your home’s electrical system. But again, the best protection is to not run your air conditioner during a lightning storm, period.