Simply put, the time when you’ll most want to use your air conditioner is right before a thunderstorm. As any Sarasota resident can tell you, the weather becomes uncomfortably hot and muggy right before the rain starts to fall, and the lure of comfort is difficult to ignore. It’s natural to want to beat nature by turning on the A/C and relaxing through the storm. However, having your air conditioner plugged in during a thunderstorm can damage it irreparably.
The Dangers of Lightning
Lightning is the greatest and most obvious threat to your A/C during a thunderstorm. A direct lightning strike is extremely rare, and can contain up to 300,000 volts of energy, effectively killing your A/C unit if it gets hit—but this is an extremely rare circumstance.
Lightning is formed when a negative charge builds up in a cloud and finds release by striking down to the positively charged earth. As such, your larger house is a far likelier target for a lightning strike than your air conditioner. However, a house strike will have a negative effect on your A/C unit if it’s plugged in.
When lightning strikes a house, the electricity will surge through the electrical wiring system, seeking the quickest path to the earth. Lightning strikes near a power line can also send voltage surging through your home HVAC system. This is why all electronics should be unplugged during a thunderstorm, particularly your A/C unit! Any plugged-in electronics could be destroyed, and you may even get electrocuted if you happen to be handling them.
A power surge from a lightning strike could damage the plug and electrical circuitry of your unit. Power surges can also cause damage to your A/C’s capacitor and overload the compressor. These repairs will be incredibly expensive, and you may even need to replace your entire unit.
Installing a surge protector is your greatest defense in protecting your air conditioning unit. Surge protectors protect your home and electrical devices by safely diverting energy into the ground where it can safely dissipate. A lightning strike may destroy your surge protector, but at least your A/C unit won’t need costly repairs or a costlier replacement.
Consultation and Repair
Lightning strikes can lead to expensive air conditioning repairs, and, depending on the damage, your entire unit may need to be replaced. Some damage may not be immediately evident, so it’s important to have your air conditioning unit inspected following a lightning strike. While it’s true that the odds of your A/C being hit by lightning during a thunderstorm are low, it doesn’t hurt for you to prepare.
As quickly as the rain arrives in Florida, once it leaves you will again suffer in the heat and humidity without an air conditioner. There isn’t much worse for a homeowner than that!