5 Signs Your Air Conditioner Has Sustained Storm Damage

Air conditioners are designed to withstand constant exposure to the elements and nearly all weather conditions. However, many severe weather events can certainly take their toll. Whether your air conditioner has been subjected to heavy wind, rain, hail, dust, or snow, making sure it’s okay is important. Catching and repairing storm-related damages early on can prevent energy waste, needless wear, and outright failure. Following are five signs your home cooling system has sustained storm damage along with several tips for putting things aright.

1. Your Air Conditioner Won’t Turn Back on

Severe storms often cause the power to go out. In most instances, if your HVAC was on before the power went off, it will automatically show signs of life once the power is restored. However, if it does not, this could mean that the equipment has sustained damages as the result of a power surge. Fortunately, your air conditioner should be well-protected against power surges by the circuit breaker. You may simply need to reset it. If the AC system doesn’t power up after the breaker has been reset, schedule HVAC repair services right away.

2. Heavy Winds Have Caused Refrigerant Loss

Refrigerant is basically the lifeblood of your air conditioning system. When refrigerant leaks develop, air conditioners wind up working much harder to provide less overall cooling. One sure sign that a storm has caused a refrigerant leak is noticeably low output immediately after one of these events. Strong, heavy winds can damage the refrigerant lines. These tubes move the refrigerant between the indoor compressor and the outside condenser. When refrigerant leaks are an issue, the problem should always be resolved by a licensed technician. Do not attempt to replenish lost refrigerant or repair damaged refrigerant lines on your own. Shut the system down and wait for service. Continuing to use the air conditioner while a refrigerant leak exists can cause increasingly widespread problems to develop.

3. Your Air Conditioner Is Emitting Strange Noises While in Use

When it comes to heavy storms, the most vulnerable part of your air conditioning system is its outside condenser. Apart from the enclosure that it came in, this component is directly subjected to the elements. Heavy winds can blow rocks, twigs, dirt, and other debris into the condenser that get caught on its coils and moving parts. When the air conditioner is turned back on, this debris will bang around. You may hear screeching, whistling, or clanging noises whenever the system is in use. Loose debris can damage various parts of the interior, including the condenser. Moreover, coatings of dirt and dust can keep the condenser coils from doing their job effectively. As soon as loose debris is identified in the condenser, turn the system off right away.

Cleaning out your condenser after a major storm may be something that you can do on your own. Most condenser enclosures are easy to open, and most owner’s manuals offer detailed and easy-to-understand cleaning instructions. However, if the amount of debris at the interior of your AC’s condenser is substantial, or if you aren’t comfortable doing this work, schedule AC maintenance service instead. Professional cleanings tend to be far more thorough, and when licensed providers are in charge of this work, there’s no risk of accidentally voiding your warranty. One thing you can certainly do on your own is to clear away any large items that have been blown against the condenser enclosure. Removing branches, leaves, and other storm debris will keep this component from overheating. It will also ensure optimal airflow. The condenser should always have between 12 and 18 inches of clearance on all sides or more.

4. The Condenser Is Surrounded by a Pool of Water

Having a solid landscaping design and good, functional outdoor drainage will play a major role in determining how well your condenser fares during and after any storm. Given that condensers are always installed outside, they’re designed to be water-resistant. However, being spattered with water or snow during a storm is far different from actually being submerged in water. Not only is submersion bad for condensers, but it also creates a serious electrical hazard.

If your condenser is sitting in a standing pool of water following a storm or after a heavy snow-melt, turn the air conditioner off at the circuit breaker right away. Alert everyone on the property to stay away from the area. If your yard isn’t gated, think about putting up a warning sign. You’ll need to take care of any drainage issues that exist before attempting to have the unit cleared, inspected, and repaired. Once the standing water has drained, dried up, or abated, your HVAC technician can come in and do the rest. Hiring professionals to clear up drainage issues after the storm will eliminate the electrical hazard, protect the foundation of your home, and ensure that water doesn’t pool around this important outdoor component during future storms.

5. Your Air Conditioner Smells Funny

Even when there isn’t standing water around the AC condenser, electrical hazards can still exist. This is especially true if you detect a burnt electrical smell shortly after turning your air conditioner back on. This is a likely sign of a short circuit. It can also mean that your condenser has a damaged motor or fan. As soon as this odor is detected, shut the system down and schedule professional AC service.

If you notice a foul smell coming from your indoor air registers or vents several days after a storm, you may have an entirely different problem on your hands. During times of severe weather, small animals living around your home may make an effort to find shelter in your HVAC ductwork. Even fairly small-sized openings can allow rodents, raccoons, and other pests in. Once they enter these systems, animals sometimes have a hard time finding their way out. Moreover, by the time that they’ve entered during a storm, they may already be seriously injured or ill. When pests die in hidden areas of the HVAC system, their decomposing bodies permeate the house with a putrid odor. The longer that this problem is left unsolved, the more pervasive the resulting stench will become, and the more dangerous the issue will be for the health of those in your home. The good news is that this is also a problem that a trusted HVAC company can help with. HVAC professionals can locate the offending carcass, remove it, and disinfect and deodorize all affected sections of the ductwork.

At Hoff Heating & AC, we offer a vast range of heating and cooling repair, installation, and maintenance services for property owners throughout O’Fallon, MO, and the surrounding region. We also provide HVAC services for new constructions, geothermal services, and a number of top-rated HVAC products. If your home cooling system has sustained damage during a recent storm or you just need to schedule a maintenance visit, call us today.