Summer months are the most prone to thunderstorms, which is bad news for your HVAC units and plumbing. Did you know that, even when the center of the storm is far away, lightning can strike and effect up to 10 miles in the surrounding area?
The average strike can be up to 5 miles in length, raise the air’s temperature by a maximum of 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit and contain 100 million electrical volts. That can mean serious trouble for your HVAC equipment and plumbing systems. To help protect and prepare you and your home for the next summer thunderstorm, here are a few of Warner Service’s favorite tips:
- You have probably heard that you should not swim during a thunderstorm, but did you know that bathing, showering or using your faucets during a thunderstorm can be risky too? This common myth has some plausible fact, as proved by Discovery Channel’s MythBusters. The average electric current produced by lightning can travel at 224,000 miles per hour. The speedy bolt can travel through the grounded metal plumbing, which can lead to your showerhead or sink faucet. The hot temperature and impurities from tap water actually help conduct electricity, increasing the chances of electrocution. If you have to use your plumbing during a thunderstorm, consider installing polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipes. These can help prevent getting electrocuted if lightning strikes.
- Consider installing a sump pump in your basement. Accumulated storm water can severely damage your HVAC unit, not to mention the strong possibility of flooding. These pumps are placed in a sump basin in the floor, typically in the basement or lowest floor, and automatically actuate when the water rises to a preset level. This causes rainwater to be pumped up and out of the room and discharged into the backyard, saving you potentially thousands of dollars by preventing floods before they happen.
- Because air conditioning units are electrically insulated for safety, and the refrigerant is non-flammable, it is doubtful that an explosion from a lightning strike will occur. However, precautions should still be taken. Running your air conditioner during a storm can cause serious damage to the equipment, so it’s best to shut down your air conditioner at the thermostat during a thunderstorm. We know summer storms make your home hot and humid, but a lightning-induced power surge can overload the compressor or melt the plug, if your unit requires one, and receptacle. It can also damage the electrical circuitry in your air conditioner’s control panel.
After the storm has cleared and your power has been restored, restart your unit by following these steps:
- Find the circuit breaker box in your home, and turn the switch for the air conditioning to the “off” position.
- Flip the switch back to the “on” position.
- Wait 30 minutes while the internal breaker in your unit resets. During this time, keep the thermostat in the “off” position. The internal breaker cannot reset if the unit is calling for cooling circulation.
- After 30 minutes, turn the thermostat to “cool” to turn the air conditioning back on.
Remember: Surge protectors do not protect against direct lightning strikes, so unplug all electronics before lightning starts to avoid shock. This includes washing machines, dryers, landline phones, televisions, computers and chargers.
To prepare for the next storm, begin with turning off your air conditioning unit at the thermostat and unplug all appliances. Do not use any plumbing unless you have PVC pipes, and, when all the power has been restored, restart your unit. If you need help installing a sump pumps or PVC pipes or have any questions about your HVAC unit or plumbing, contact Warner Service today.