Is It Safe to Leave My AC on During a Thunderstorm?

Stormy, warm weather is just a way of life during Florida summers. This means our air conditioners are constantly running to keep us cool and comfortable. But is it safe to keep an air conditioner running while it’s storming? Answering this question correctly can save you — or cost you — a lot of money during this tempestuous season.

Does Rain Affect Air Conditioners?

It’s completely fine to leave your air conditioner on in the rain. Air conditioners are made to be durable and to withstand regular weather patterns such as rain. It is, however, essential that your AC unit is installed properly by a licensed technician, ideally on an elevated concrete surface to reduce the risk of flooding and electrical conduction.

While rain itself is harmless to an air conditioner, flooding can cause the unit to short circuit and creates a greater chance of electrical damage from lightning. The accumulation of debris can also create problems for your AC unit, hindering its performance and the proper flow of air throughout your household. It’s important, therefore, to check your unit after particularly windy or rainy conditions to make sure it’s free of debris and standing water.

If you’re concerned that your unit may have been damaged in a storm, contact your local AC experts ASAP.

Is My Air Conditioner Safe from Lightning?

While your AC unit is perfectly safe during a rainstorm, lightning is a different story altogether. A single bolt of lightning contains enough voltage (≈ 1 billion volts) to power over 50 houses for a day. The sudden, combustive nature of lightning makes it one of nature’s most exciting and dangerous phenomena. It also makes it particularly dangerous to your home’s electrical equipment, of which air conditioners are no exception.

A lightning strike, though unlikely, would destroy your AC unit’s electrical systems, especially its control panel and plug. On the bright side, there is no risk of explosion, since the AC refrigerant is non-flammable. The unit should also not become hot or electrically charged since the wiring is insulated against electricity.

The greatest risk from lightning, however, is not strikes but power surges. These surges are far more than most surge-protective devices can handle, threatening to render your AC unit unusable in a mere 30 microseconds.

Protecting Your AC Unit Against Lightning Strikes

Given the undeniable power of lightning, how can you protect your AC unit against its destructive potential?

Whole-House Surge Protectors

One of the most common ways people deal with lightning threats is to install surge protectors on their unit. Plug-in (or point-of-use) surge protectors are often glorified power strips and greatly vary in their usefulness to reduce power surges and spikes. Most of these devices offer little to no protection against something as severe as a lightning strike. Whole-house surge protection, however, is a much more comprehensive form of surge protection that is installed directly into the circuit breaker box and protects all of your home’s electronic equipment.

Generally speaking, whole-house surge protectors are mainly intended to protect electronics against spikes and internal surges, but they may also offer a degree of protection against greater electrical surges from events such as lightning strikes. While whole-house surge protection may provide a greater level of security than a non-secured home, it is not a guaranteed defense against lightning. If you are interested in whole-house surge protection, please contact a local, certified AC professional for more information.

Lightning Protection Systems

For folks living in lightning-prone areas, a more dedicated lightning protection system may be of great value. These systems use rods, conductors, and grounding electrode systems to divert or equalize lightning and its effects on your electrical equipment. Combined with proper surge protection, these systems can offer a high degree of safety against lightning strikes for your AC unit and other important home electronics. Even though lightning protection systems offer a greater extent of protection against lightning than surge protection alone, they can’t guarantee that your AC is 100% safe during a thunderstorm.

The Safest Option: Turn Off Your System

Surge and lightning protection systems offer a high amount of safety to your AC unit, but neither can totally ensure that your unit is safe during a thunderstorm. The safest option is always to turn off your system for the duration of the storm. Installation, repair, and maintenance of your home’s air conditioning system is an expensive endeavor, so it’s of great importance to take good care of it. The good news, however, is that storms are usually preceded by lowered temperatures and humidity levels, keeping your home from becoming too uncomfortable while the unit is turned off.

AC Service in Brevard County

If you’re worried that your AC unit may have been damaged in a storm, call your Air Conditioning experts at Colman Heating & Air. Our dedicated team of professionals can assist you in everything from installation, maintenance, and repair. Contact us today and find out how to best protect your AC units against storm damage, or if you simply need to schedule routine HVAC maintenance.

24-HR Emergency Service: (321) 269-4565

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