HVAC Repairs: Post Hurricane Inspections
After a Hurricane: What HVAC Repairs Might Be in Order
On average, a hurricane hits the coast of Texas every six years. Between 50 and 60 thunderstorms pop up in our fair state each year; approximately 1/3 of them become severe thunderstorms.1 Severe weather happens in Texas often enough that it bears staying aware of conditions and preparing for storms as needed.
The portion of your air conditioning system that is most vulnerable during strong storms is the outdoor cabinet, commonly called the condenser unit. The name is an oversimplification because it performs several functions all at once.
Here is a quick update on the condenser unit’s function and how to protect it from needing HVAC Repairs during severe weather.
While you might consider air conditioning as bringing cool air into your space, technically air conditioning moves heat from air inside your home to the great outdoors. Since the heat needs to move outdoors, an outdoor unit is necessary.
- Refrigerant gas, commonly called Freon, moves through a closed loop of tubes.
- A compressor motor puts refrigerant gas under significant pressure—approximately 400 psi. Since the compression makes the gas extremely hot, it is performed outdoors.
- When the pressure is suddenly released, the gas becomes very cold very quickly. The refrigerant gas readily absorbs the heat and cools the surrounding air in the indoor cabinet.
- The hot gas now moves outdoors through a network of tubes to be cooled by moving air. If the gas does not cool, compressing it again will cause the system to overheat and damage vital components.
While the condenser unit is made of sturdy, industrial components, many of the materials are rather thin and vulnerable to damage from the high winds and heavy rains that characterize strong storms. During a strong storm, shutting off power to the AC system is a good idea; power surges can damage the system’s electronics. Before turning on the air conditioner, inspect the condenser unit for damage, looking for:
- Strong winds or flood waters can pick up the condenser or worse, cause it to be airborne. In some locations, local ordinances may require the condenser to be strapped down to prevent it from being carried away in high winds.
- Downed lines. Observe the surroundings carefully, watching for downed power lines. Notice the conduit, carrying electricity to the condenser; it cares high voltage, so take note of any damage to the unit’s wiring. If the wiring is damaged, stay away and call a professional technician.
- Standing water. Thunderstorms can produce flash flooding, but hurricanes produce huge amounts of rain and can result in a pool of water surrounding the condenser unit. Remember that water is a very good conductor of electricity and do not enter the standing water until the power is shut off to the unit.
- Tubing damage. Observe two copper tubes that connect the condenser to the indoor cabinet. These tubes contain refrigerant gas and might be damaged by flying debris or movement. If damage is observed, do not turn the system on until repairs are made.
- Oily leak. The coil of tubing that cools refrigerant gas is susceptible to damage from flying debris or movement of the condenser cabinet. Since the gas is under pressure, the system must remain an intact closed loop. A tell-tale sign of gas leakage is a black, oily substance—a component of the gas. If you observe this substance, call a technician before restoring power to the system.
- Dirt and debris. The wind carries many objects, both small and large, often at very high speeds. Make sure to clear limbs, leaves, and other large objects away from the condenser. The fan is drawing air through the unit and out the top, so make sure to allow two feet of clearance for adequate airflow.
Use a garden hose and gently wash the coil of the condenser unit. When dust and sand become lodged between the fins of the coil, it reduces the necessary airflow. This can lead to overheating of the compressor motor and catastrophic damage to the unit.
Let us help with your Post Hurricane HVAC Repairs!