Your air conditioner is such a valuable part of your home, it seems a shame to leave it out in the rain. But it doesn’t mind -- it’s built to stand up to the elements, be it sun, rain, wind or even hail.
You might be tempted to give your HVAC system a little added protection, and that’s fine, as long as you use materials designed for that specific purpose. But if you take the wrong DIY path to safeguarding your air conditioner, you could end up doing more harm than good.
Do Your Worst
It’s true that there are some components in your air conditioner that would be harmed by moisture, but these parts are well protected and sealed off from the elements. Not only can it rain all day and night without an issue, most air conditioners can even withstand temporary flooding of several inches.
If there’s flooding around your home that is a foot or more deep, however, that could pose a greater risk of damage. Under these circumstances, you should shut off all power to your HVAC system at the breaker and schedule inspection and service for the earliest opportunity after flood waters subside.
Aside from water, your air conditioner might take some abuse from hail or windblown debris. Dents in the exterior of the unit won’t necessarily be anything more than a cosmetic concern, but a licensed technician should inspect the damage to be sure. Some dents, especially to coils and fins, could hurt your energy efficiency and should be repaired.
When possible, you should do a quick sweep of your yard before any storm that could generate lots of wind. A big part of preventing airborne debris is throwing it away or securing it before the wind picks up.
A Custom Cover
If you’re concerned about the risk of damage, there are air conditioner covers made by system manufacturers and some aftermarket HVAC parts companies. These are designed to avoid the problems that often accompany DIY covers, specifically inhibited airflow. You shouldn’t expect any difference in energy efficiency or operating costs.
Covers that are made out of plywood and plastic may block vents or trap heat, either of which may make systems run inefficiently and contribute to accelerated wear on moving parts. The worst is the use of tarps to protect air conditioners, because they can also trap moisture against the unit, leading to corrosion and mold growth.
The Real Threat
If there’s one weather-related danger to your HVAC system that should really concern you, it’s the one that attacks your system through the electrical grid: power surges. During electrical storms, it’s possible for a surge of electricity to fry some of the more sensitive internal components of your HVAC system.
Your air conditioner is too big to plug in through your computer’s surge protection power strip, but you can still keep it safe by installing a whole-home surge protection system. If you’re thinking about protecting your whole home at once, a licensed electrician can outline your options for you.
Trust your air conditioner to serve you come rain or shine, but if you do run into trouble, your home comfort experts are always ready to help.