3 Storm Season AC Issues (And How to Solve Them)

July 30, 2018

If you’ve lived here in the Midwest for long, you know that summer is storm season.

And unfortunately, all that heavy rainfall and lightning can be harmful to your AC system.

To keep your AC system safe and running smoothly throughout the summer, we’ll walk you through 3 common post-storm AC issues and how to solve them:

  1. AC shuts off during the storm

  2. Outdoor unit is damaged

  3. Basement is flooded

Let’s start with issue #1...

Issue #1: AC shuts off during the storm

Sometimes, air conditioners will trip their circuit breaker and lose power either during or after a storm.

A thunderstorm can cause the AC circuit breaker to trip in 2 ways:

  1. If lightning strikes near your home, it can send a huge spike of electrical current into your home, causing the AC circuit breaker to trip immediately.

  2. If lightning knocks down an entire electrical grid and cuts off the power to your entire home, all of the appliances in your home will try to turn on at the same time once power is restored. This creates a power surge that could trip the AC circuit breaker.

What to do:

Assuming your home has power, follow these steps to reset the AC circuit breaker:

1. Go to your electrical panel (it could be in a basement, garage or under a stairway)

Electrical Panel

The AC circuit breaker at the electrical panel.

2. Find the circuit breaker labeled “A/C” or “air conditioner” and flip it to the ON position to reset the breaker. If your circuit breakers are not labeled, look for the breaker that’s flipped to the OFF position. If all other appliances are working in your home except your AC, the AC breaker will be the only breaker flipped to the OFF position.
3. Turn OFF the thermostat and wait for 30 minutes. This will give your AC’s internal components time to reset.

4. After 30 minutes, turn the thermostat to COOL. Your AC should turn back on and run as normal.

Note: If your AC isn’t running and you don’t see any tripped breaker, or the circuit breaker keeps tripping as the AC tries to come on, you have a bigger electrical issue that requires a professional’s help. DO NOT continue to reset the breaker—call a professional for help ASAP.

Issue #2: Outdoor unit is damaged

High winds and heavy rains can damage the outside unit of an air conditioner.

Sometimes, if the outside unit is damaged, your AC can’t cool your home and you’ll notice problems like:

  • AC isn’t running

  • Warm air coming from the vents

  • Strange noises coming from your outdoor unit

What to do:

After a severe rain/thunderstorm, first you should verify that the outside unit hasn’t been damaged.

Go outside and look at your outdoor unit. Make sure…

  • The inside is not flooded with water (water can damage the electrical components inside)

  • The outside is not covered in debris (like broken branches and leaves)

  • The outside or inside is not visibly broken or damaged

air conditioner compressor, located in the outdoor unit

The inside view of your outdoor unit. Make sure no water is inside here.

Even a small amount of debris (seen above) can decrease your AC’s efficiency so always clear any debris from the outdoor unit after a storm.

You’ll want to make sure your outdoor unit is clean and free of debris because an outdoor unit that’s blocked by debris can cause serious AC issues like…

  • Overheating, which will cause your AC to shut down

  • Damage to the compressor (a very expensive AC part to replace)

If you notice flooding inside the outdoor unit, or severe damage to the exterior of the outdoor unit, you should shut off your AC and contact a professional for help.

Issue #3: Basement is flooded

Everyone knows water and electricity don't mix. So if your AC system is located in your basement and the basement has flooded, that could pose a real problem for your family’s safety and your AC system.

What to do:

1. Turn your AC system off. To do this, turn the thermostat to the OFF position, and go to the electrical panel and flip the AC breaker OFF to stop power from reaching your system.

2. Assuming your home has power, consider renting a sump pump from your local rent-all or hardware store. A sump pump will remove the water from your basement and push it outside your home. You might also consider renting fans or industrial blowers to speed up the drying process.

Note: DO NOT run your HVAC system (or other electronics in your basement) until the basement is totally dry.

Need a professional to repair/inspect your AC after a storm?

If you aren’t sure your AC is in good enough shape to run again, call us to inspect your system.

Don’t hesitate to contact us either if you need any kind of repair or just need help cleaning your outdoor unit after a storm.

Learn more about our AC repair and maintenance services by visiting our AC service page.

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