How to Prepare Your HVAC System for Hurricanes

A homeowner we serviced the other day in Lakewood Ranch asked us a question that thousands of Florida homeowners are asking themselves this month:

“How should I prepare my AC for hurricane season?”

Air conditioners can be fragile when you’re dealing with 90 MPH winds and intense rain against the side of your home. The last thing any of us want is for our AC to be damaged, especially since hurricane season and summer coincide.

In this article, we’ll break down 8 ways Florida homeowners can protect their HVAC systems during hurricane season before it’s too late.

  1. Schedule Professional Maintenance

Before the hurricane season hits, have a professional technician (like ours) inspect and service your HVAC system. This maintenance check ensures that the system is in good working condition and all parts are functioning correctly.

The technician can identify any issues that might make the system vulnerable to storm damage and perform necessary repairs.

This should be done at least twice a year regardless, but make sure it happens before any big weather events if you have the opportunity.

Think of this like going to the doctor for a physical before running a 20 miles marathon – it’s a good idea. Just like you want your body to be maintained well prior to running a marathon, you want your HVAC unit to be maintained before it has to run harder than before.

A well-maintained HVAC unit operates more efficiently, which is crucial during periods of high usage like the post-hurricane recovery phase.

  1. Secure Outdoor Units
outdoor hvac unit
Outdoor HVAC Unit in Lakewood Ranch

The outdoor units of your HVAC system are super susceptible to hurricane damage. 

Secure these units with hurricane straps or a protective cage to keep them in place during strong winds if possible. These straps or cages should be made of non-corrosive materials to withstand harsh weather conditions.

During Hurricane Irma, many homeowners around Bradenton witnessed outdoor units being tossed around due to insufficient anchoring.

In response, many HVAC companies started offering installation of hurricane straps that meet the local building codes, significantly reducing the risk of damages in subsequent storms.

Your HVAC unit isn’t like a wall – it can and will be moved with not as much force as you think.

3.) Clear the Surrounding Area

You should remove any loose debris, such as leaves, branches, and tools, from around your outdoor HVAC units. These items can become airborne during a hurricane and potentially damage the equipment.

Many Florida homeowners have palm trees directly outside of their windows by AC units. While of course, you don’t need to unroot any trees, be aware of potential dangers your AC could face by falling objects.

You should make sure that the area within a few feet of your unit is clear and that your yard is tidy before a storm approaches.

In addition to clearing debris, you should consider trimming trees and bushes near the HVAC unit. During a hurricane, branches can break off and strike the unit, leading to costly repairs or replacements.

Regular landscaping maintenance reduces this risk and keeps the area around the HVAC unit safe from natural debris.

4.) Elevate Equipment if Necessary

This mostly applies if your home is by the coastline or you anticipate heavy flooding.

If your area is prone to flooding, you should consider elevating your HVAC unit.

Placing it on a raised platform can prevent water damage from storm surges or flooded yards. Check local building codes and guidelines for the appropriate elevation level.

This was a big problem last year in Fort Myers when HVAC equipment was simply washed away. Take precautions if your home is by an area that could see a foot or more of flooding.

5.) Cover the Outdoor Unit

Before the storm hits, cover your outdoor HVAC unit with a breathable waterproof cover. 

This can protect the unit from rain and flying debris without restricting airflow too much, which can cause other issues. Covering the HVAC unit with a breathable waterproof cover can protect it from direct exposure to rain and prevent debris from entering the system.

These covers are designed to allow air flow, which prevents condensation build-up that could lead to rust or mold growth. It’s a simple yet effective way to shield the unit during the peak of the storm.

Remove the cover as soon as the storm passes to prevent moisture buildup, which can lead to mold and mildew, which we know too well about in Florida.

6.) Turn Off the Power (Temporarily)

Power Breaker For a Home in Sarasota

When a hurricane is getting close to you and it looks like you’ll lose power, turn off the power to your HVAC system at the circuit breaker.

This precaution prevents power surges and electrical issues when the storm hits, which could damage your HVAC system and other electrical appliances in your home.

Power surges, commonly caused by lightning or sudden changes in the power grid during storms, can fry circuits and ruin electrical components within the HVAC system. 

This preventative measure is simple but can save you thousands in repairs.

During Hurricane Matthew, a power surge in Bradenton caused significant damage to many HVAC systems. Homeowners who had switched off their units at the breaker saw their systems spared from the surge, showing how important hitting the off switch can be.

Turning off the power reduces the risk of fire hazards from short circuits that can occur if the system is damaged by water or debris

It’s a critical safety step that homeowners should not overlook when preparing for a hurricane, ensuring both the protection of their property and their personal safety.

7.) Plan for A Generator

HVAC systems aren’t just for keeping cool. In some instances like for the sick and elderly – it’s a matter of life or death.

If you rely on your HVAC system for health reasons or have significant concerns about heat after a storm, consider investing in a generator.

A generator keeps your HVAC system running during power outages, ensuring continued comfort and safety.

To choose the right kind, consider talking to specialists like us or visiting your local hardware store.

Choosing the right generator involves calculating the wattage needed to run your HVAC system along with any other essential appliances.

It’s also important to ensure the generator is installed with a transfer switch, which safely disconnects the house from the grid and prevents back-feed, which can be dangerous to repair crews.

8.) Review Your Insurance Coverage

You should make sure that your home insurance includes coverage for HVAC damage related to hurricanes.

Understanding your policy helps you know what damages are covered and ensures that you can make necessary claims effectively.

After Hurricane Sandy, many Floridians discovered their insurance did not fully cover HVAC damages.

Since then, a trend has emerged in Bradenton where homeowners review and update their policies to include comprehensive HVAC coverage before hurricane season begins to make sure that they are financially protected from potential losses.

You should consider speaking with their insurance agents to discuss additional coverage options or adjustments to existing policies. This might include adding flood insurance or endorsements for specific systems like HVAC, providing peace of mind and financial security in the face of potential storm damage.

Have Us Help You Prepare For Florida Weather:

southern values cooling and heating
Southern Values Cooling & Heating Truck

As an HVAC company servicing Bradenton and Lakewood Ranch for 12 years, we’ve seen what hurricanes and other weather disasters can do to Florida homes.

Different AC units require different needs to repair and maintenance.

As hurricane season draws closer, don’t be unprepared for the thousands of dollars in damages it could bring.

Instead, call us at (941) 812-1571 to see how we can help.

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