Is It Safe to Run Your Air Conditioner in a Thunderstorm?

August 20, 2021 12:43 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

When the weather gets hot and humid in the summer, you rely on your air conditioning system to keep your entire family cool at home. Unfortunately, these temperature conditions are also ideal for creating summertime thunderstorms with plenty of lightning and thunder.

If you’ve been wondering, “Can I use my AC in a thunderstorm?” the truth is that it’s generally not recommended. Here’s what you need to know about AC use during a thunderstorm:

How thunderstorms affect air conditioning systems

Lightning strikes don’t always strike homes during thunderstorms, but it’s a definite possibility. The area on your roof where your utility lines connect to the house is especially vulnerable to lightning strikes, and you can expect a significant power surge if this occurs. As energy is sent through your home’s wiring at a fraction of a second, it can damage electrical components that are currently in use, including your home’s air conditioner.

In many cases, direct lightning strikes to the home that occur when an air conditioner is in use can leave your unit unusable. The power surge can not only melt the plug to your unit, but it can also damage the complex, sensitive circuitry within the unit’s panel. Repairs are required, at best. At worst, complete replacement of the entire unit may be required. In short, the answer to the question, “Can I use my AC in a thunderstorm?” is no if you want to prevent unnecessary damage to your unit.

What about window air conditioners?

Lightning can affect window air conditioners, too, especially if you live in a high-rise building several stories off the ground. This situation is highly unlikely, though, so it’s typically safe to leave your unit plugged in during a thunderstorm. In the worst-case scenario, a power surge could melt the plug and power port on your unit or damage its interior circuitry. You’ll likely need to replace the unit entirely. It’s simply best practice to unplug your unit during severe storms.

Basic AC protection in storms

The best way to keep your AC protected during a thunderstorm is to turn it off and, in the case of window units, unplug it. You can also install a protection system featuring lightning rods, conductors and ground rods to give the energy a path to the ground, rather than letting it travel through your home’s electrical system. Remember that using your air conditioning system is perfectly fine during a rainstorm, but when you see lightning or hear thunder approaching, it’s time to turn off the system.

Practicing safe thunderstorm AC use preserves the lifespan of your system, saving you time, money and hassle. While it may be uncomfortable to endure hot, humid temperatures that accompany a thunderstorm, it’s a minimal inconvenience compared to repairing or replacing a unit.

Should your unit need service for any reason, get in touch with the experts at BLM Refrigeration Heating & Air Conditioning for prompt, professional service that keeps your family cool and comfortable at home. Reach out today to schedule an appointment!

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