Most people don't think about storms when it comes to maintaining your HVAC system, but they are really important. Severe weather can cause power surges that can fry the components of your system and keep it from functioning properly. At Fire & Ice, we want to make sure your HVAC and home are protected from any power surges that could occur during severe weather.
We answer questions from thousands of customers about protecting their HVAC systems during severe weather seasons. We are prepared to help you understand the potential impacts on your system so you and your family can remain safe.
What is a Power Surge?
A power surge is a spike in voltage, either coming from outside the home or within its electrical system. Power surges can be hazardous to your appliances, electronics, and even your HVAC system in your home if you are not prepared.
Modern HVAC systems are very complex and digital, making your system vulnerable to damage. Here are the parts of your HVAC system that could be impacted during a power surge.
Control Board on an HVAC
The control board is the "brain" of the HVAC system. A surge can fry the control board on your system and will keep it from communicating with your thermostat. The damage will stop your HVAC system from heating and cooling your home correctly and will leave you out in the cold or roasting when it goes out.
Compressor Motor on an HVAC
The compressor motor on your HVAC system is a box with wires running out of it. The compressor draws in cool refrigerant under low pressure and then squeezes it to raise the pressure and temperature.
The main part that can be damaged in the compressor is the motor, which consists of numerous wires that transform electrical energy into kinetic energy. If your HVAC suffers a power surge, the electrical energy may heat the electrical winding and burn up the wires. As a result, a damaged motor won't function, and your compressor will malfunction.
Capacitor on an HVAC
The capacitor on your HVAC is an oval-shaped device that stores the electrical charge to run anything running off of electricity. If a power surge occurs, this can be damaged and keep your HVAC from running correctly.
Relay Switch of an HVAC
This switch turns on and off different components of your HVAC system, specifically the ones that use high voltage power to run them. For example, most relay switches have an electrical contactor with a coil around them. If the voltage becomes too high, it will burn up the coil, the circuit will not be completed, and the relay switch will malfunction.
Preventative Measures for Power Surge Damage
However, there are preventative steps you can easily take inside your home to minimize the damage a power surge can cause to your system.
Steps You Can Take Prevent Damage to your System
- Turn off your HVAC during a lightning storm, so it doesn't incur damage.
Storms with lightning are the most common example that comes to mind when someone thinks of a power surge, but there are others too. Lighting can be very damaging to the electrical components of your home and your HVAC system. If your power goes out during a storm, it is good practice to turn off or as many devices off of their charges as possible so they're not hit by a surge in power when your electricity returns.
- Install a whole-home surge protector
Many homeowners are already using individual surge protection on electronic devices, but you can also use one on your home. Installing a whole-home surge protector will absorb any extra power created during a surge and keep it from frying your HVAC components.
- Take care of your home power circuits.
Issues with the circuits within your home are the most common way someone damages their HVAC from a power surge. However, problems with your appliances, electrical work, and plugging in too many devices can also cause a surge and damage other equipment in your home, like your HVAC system. These surges are small but can cause damage over a long period.
Limiting your use of extension cords, unplugging devices from outlets when a storm happens, and ensuring your electrical work and appliances run properly can all help.
Warranty Warning for HVAC Power Surge Damage
HVAC manufacturer warranties do not cover damage caused by power surges. In some cases, homeowners insurance might cover the damage, but it's often tough to prove the claim because it can happen over time. In other words, a lightning strike, an overuse of electrical circuits, or issues with your appliances could leave you responsible for some costly HVAC repairs.
System Type and Electrical Safety
Power surges can also impact your home more based on the type of system you have. For example, both gas furnaces and electrical furnaces use electricity in order to run. Still, a power surge is going to be more damaging to an electrical furnace because of the internal components that require an electrical charge from a power line to run.
HVAC Safety Processes for Preventing Damage
At the time of installation and when we do a tune-up or maintenance on a system to ensure that it is operating safely, for both air conditioners and furnaces, during a tune-up, we lubricate all moving parts, clean and adjust the thermostat, check the air filters and replace them, inspect the blower motor and belt, tighten and test wires and connections, and inform the customer about the current equipment conditions.
Additionally, for furnaces, we also go through the following during a tune-up :
- Test for carbon monoxide.
- Test for gas leaks up to furnace shut-off valve.
- Check humidifier operation, and change for winter operation.
- Test and adjust the operation of safety and operating controls.
- Inspect flue pipe and draft diverter.
- Monitor for combustion leaks.
- Test gas valve operation.
- Adjust burner for maximum efficiency.
- Clean burners and inspect heat exchanger.
- Clean and adjust pilot assembly.
- Clean flame sensor.
For an air conditioner tune-up, we also go through the following steps during a tune-up
- Install gauges, record pressures/temp.
- Measure superheat to fine-tune refrigerant level.
- Flush condensate drain to protect against overflow.
- Clean the outdoor condenser coil.
- Test temperature drop at return and supply air.
- Safety test all controls for proper operation.
- Amperage readings on all motors and test bearings.
- Test operation and condition of compressor contacts.
- Inspect capacitors and relays for rust and leaks.
- Turn humidifier off for summer non-operation.
- Check outdoor disconnect (if applicable).
Finally, for heat pumps, we go through a similar process to an air conditioner for maintenance but also include:
- Operation of the machine in “heat” mode
- Operation of the machine in “cool” mode
- Check function of the reversing valve
- Make sure defrost is working
These steps ensure that your HVAC system, whether it is a furnace or an air conditioner, is taken care of properly and kept running smoothly.
Keeping your system on a regular maintenance schedule will also keep any issues, such as a power surge, from turning into a bigger problem. We recommend that both your furnace and air conditioner get one tune-up per year. Getting a maintenance plan can also help with scheduling these on time, so you are not waiting in line to get an appointment.
Power surges can be very damaging to the inside of your home and to your HVAC system.
At Fire and Ice, we're proud to offer services that can help maintain your system, so we will know if there's an issue before you do. For example, we use Nexia Diagnostics, which allows us to remotely monitor your home's HVAC system. Using this data, we can provide proactive service to prevent some long-term performance issues.
If you have one of our systems, we schedule follow-up communications two weeks, 90 days, six months, and one year after installation to ensure you're satisfied with your system. Additionally, with affordable, proactive maintenance plans, our company is designed to support your HVAC investment for years to come.
We also guarantee the following items for the lifetime of the equipment against defects in materials or workmanship from the date the system is installed:
- All ductwork we install
- All ductwork insulation we install
- Other items we install include sheet metal straps, clamps, fasteners, hangers, locks, drivers, drain piping, and fittings.
- All high-voltage electrical wiring, wire nuts, straps, ties, and connectors we install
- All refrigerant piping we install (does not include the cost to gain access to underground or other inaccessible piping)
- Refrigerant insulation we install
- All equipment pads, stands, jacks, and vibration elimination devices we install
Proper maintenance is what allows us to offer this unique guarantee. The only requirement to keep this protection in force for the lifetime of the equipment is to renew your annual maintenance program when due.
If you have any additional questions about how a power surge can impact your system or have a system that has been impacted by power surge damage, please give us a call now.
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