Taking care of the HVAC system in your Charleston, South Carolina home is never more important than ahead of winter storms. These events can take a major toll on your heating and cooling equipment. This is especially true of your air conditioner’s condenser. Fortunately, there are 10 steps that you can take right now to keep everything in good condition and running as it should.

1. Schedule Routine Maintenance

Your AC system’s outside component is surprisingly durable. Air conditioner manufacturers know that condensers are constantly subjected to the natural elements. They also understand that sometimes this exposure requires them to stand up to heavy storms. These units are built to withstand strong wind, fair amounts of precipitation, and many other weather-related challenges. However, this does not make them impervious to storm damage.

The first step in protecting this component from storms is scheduling routine maintenance. In winter, your technician can tune up your heater and check your HVAC air ducts for leaks. This is also a good time to make sure that the condenser is ready for an extended period of inactivity. A quick inspection will allow your provider to catch and repair minor issues so that these aren’t festering until late spring. You’ll additionally receive model-specific advice on seasonal storm protection.

2. Remove Heavy, Unmounted Objects From Your Yard

Severe storms usually come with strong winds. Although wind itself is unlikely to damage your AC condenser, it can blow heavy, unmounted objects into this component and cause considerable harm. For instance, if your kids have bikes or other toys in your yard, you should put these in your garage or storage shed. You should also store your patio furniture, your outdoor meat smoker or grill, and any other items that can be blown around.

3. Limb Your Trees

Hire a tree care specialist to limb your trees. This is the process of removing weak, dying, or dead branches that have a high likelihood of breaking off during storms. It is a great way to protect your outdoor HVAC equipment from falling branches, but it will also protect your roof, all parked vehicles on or near your property, and building residents.

Rake up all leaves, twigs, and other organic debris that has collected over the course of fall. This will minimize how many small-sized items get blown toward and trapped in your AC condenser.

4. Learn the Right Way to Use a Condenser Cover

Condenser covers are frequently misused. These products are not meant to provide constant protection all winter long. They’re heavy and poorly ventilated. This remains true even when they’re designed with mesh cutouts and other elements for breathability. Putting an AC condenser cover on your unit in late fall and then waiting until early spring to take it off again could spell disaster. Moisture that gets trapped under this cover can cause rust and mold formation. When corrosion and mold are severe, they can render condensers inoperable.

Purchase a condenser cover that’s specific to the AC model you own. This will ensure that its cutouts and other ventilating elements are in the right places. Then, put this on your condenser just before the start of a storm, and remove it as soon as the storm has passed. This will give trapped moisture the chance to dry by fully restoring airflow.

Although you may be tempted to purchase a plastic tarp or plastic wrap to cover your condenser, don’t. These self-made covers aren’t ventilated at all. Moreover, they offer even less protection from hail and other heavy precipitation than most soft-sided, store-bought covers do.

5. Install Surge Protection

Lightning strikes and power outages can spell the end of your HVAC equipment. This makes whole-house surge protection a very worthwhile investment. During storm season, whole-house surge protection can also keep all of your indoor appliances and electronics safe.

However, surge protection doesn’t always protect against direct lightning strikes. If a severe thunderstorm enters your area, it’s important to know when to turn your HVAC system off.

6. Seal Up All Air Leaks

Limit the amount of stress that your heater is subjected to by creating a tight home envelope. Seal up all gaps and cracks in building materials and install weatherstripping at all windows and doors. You can also add more insulation to your attic and insulate your HVAC ductwork. With less heated air seeping out of the home and less heat being lost during air distribution, your heating system will use less energy to establish and maintain safe and comfortable indoor conditions.

7. Have Your Gutters Cleaned and Inspected

Most AC condensers are installed alongside the outside of homes. This makes them vulnerable to several problems that arise when gutters are ill-maintained. If you have dirty, blocked gutters, they’ll overflow during times of heavy rain and flood your condenser. The weight of accumulated debris in blocked gutters can also cause these units to start pulling away from the building. If any portion of your rooftop drainage system outright fails, your condenser could be seriously damaged on impact.

8. Schedule HVAC Air Duct Cleaning

HVAC air ducts should be professionally cleaned about once every three to five years. Scheduling this service ahead of a heavy storm is important for several reasons. To start, it’s an opportunity to identify and replace ragged, torn, or otherwise damaged ducting before the resulting air pressure issues cause your HVAC system to malfunction or fail. Next, with your home sealed up tight against the outside elements, you want to make sure that your ductwork isn’t diminishing your indoor air quality. Finally, severe weather presents a host of surprising challenges with pests, as animals and insects scramble to find a safe place to hide. Making sure that all possible points of ingress are sealed off before a storm arrives will keep your HVAC air ducts from becoming a temporary shelter.

9. Have Your Heating Oil Tank Refilled

If you rely on oil-fired heating equipment, make sure that your tank is full before the storm starts. Although many fuel delivery companies offer emergency refill service, severe weather and dangerous road conditions could make timely deliveries impossible. It’s best to have all of the heating fuel that you need before the storm arrives. If you have the proper yellow storage containers and a safe place for storing fuel, you can always keep 2 to 5 gallons of diesel on hand as a short-term substitute for heating oil in the event of an emergency.

10. Establish a Back-up Heating Plan

Prepare for the unexpected. The best way to do this during the cold season is by having a backup heating plan. If you don’t have a backup generator in your home, this is especially important to do. All modern furnaces require electricity to function, even if they use natural gas or heating oil as their fuel. These units have electronic ignition switches, electricity-reliant motors, and other moving components that require a consistent power source. Heating oil and natural gas are merely what these units use for combustion, they are not what keep them operational.

For more than a decade, Charleston Heating and Air has been proudly serving residents of Charleston, South Carolina and the surrounding area. We offer heating, cooling, plumbing, and electrical service. We’re staffed by knowledgeable, friendly technicians, and we always take an environmentally friendly approach to our work. Give us a call today!

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