It’s hurricane season in South Florida again. Storm prep is a regular part of life, here, but you may have heard conflicting advice about protecting your AC unit before storms. It can be confusing, because like Florida storms themselves, the situation can change on a dime.

Florida’s Storm Season

During the summer, most of Florida is subject to regular rainstorms. South Florida and West Central Florida are subtropical regions, and during the summer, true tropical weather shifts north.

Over half of the area’s rainfall occurs between June and September, and regular thunderstorms mean tornadoes, flooding, and lightning strikes.

Along with storms, Florida is also vulnerable to hurricanes. As the ocean waters warm during the summer, westerly winds off the African coast can begin to rotate and form a hurricane. A low-pressure center develops, increasing the speed of the outlying arms of the storm.

These storms then tend to move westerly toward the Americas and make landfall in Florida, the Caribbean, or on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico.

Primary Storm Concerns

If you’re concerned about protecting your AC unit before storms, you need to understand what you’re up against and know how to be flexible.

The damage that can occur to your HVAC in a storm can vary depending on whether you’re expecting a thunderstorm or a hurricane. You’ll need to protect your AC unit differently depending on the forecast.

The two main concerns during a thunderstorm are:

  • Lightning strikes

  • Flooding

Lightning strikes

Lightning strikes can damage the electrical system in your AC unit as well as the electronic controls. A lightning strike often results in the need to replace the entire unit.

Two strategies for protecting your AC unit include:

  1. Turning off power to the AC before the storm

  2. Installing surge protection

The idea of cutting off air conditioning during a hot summer storm sounds horrible. Remember though, you’ll only need to turn it off as long as lightning persists.

Surge protection may be a better option, and Florida Power & Light offers a SurgeShield service for a monthly fee.


Flooding is a serious concern for Florida homeowners during the storm season. Your outdoor condensing unit is designed to stand up to rain, but it can be damaged by flooding.

Your outdoor unit should already be raised on a concrete pad that should help. But if you’re concerned it isn’t adequate, you can install a higher pad. Other options include relocating the unit to higher ground and even building an enclosure.

Protecting Your AC Unit Before Hurricanes

Preparing for hurricane season is a regular feature of Florida summers. To protect your HVAC unit, you’ll have to perform a few extra steps along with those above.

Lightning and flooding are both common features of a hurricane, but you’ll also need to be sure your AC unit is protected from flying debris when winds begin to pick up.

You may have read that you should cover your outdoor AC unit with a tarp during a hurricane to prevent water infiltration. However, that can lead to further problems if the situation becomes dangerous.

As stated above, your condensing unit was designed to put up with excessive rainfall. However, if you need to evacuate, it may be days or even weeks before you return. If you’re not able to uncover after the storm abates, mold and mildew will build up under the tarp. If the unit can’t dry out, it can corrode the electrical system.

Hurricane prep for your AC

Your main priority during a hurricane watch is to remove any potential projectiles from the area. This is Standard Operating Procedure for hurricane prep and should be your primary focus.

Flying debris during a hurricane damages windows, sheds, and outdoor AC units. It can even be fatal. The primary cause of the 31 deaths during 2004’s Hurricane Charley was blunt trauma from flying debris.

To protect your AC unit during a hurricane you can board it up to prevent physical damage. A possibly better long-term solution may be installing an AC cage.

If ordered to evacuate, make sure you throw your main breaker before leaving. This will go a long way in protecting all of your electronics and appliances while you’re gone.

Preparing for Florida Storms

Florida’s stormy season can be scary and exciting. Some hunker down, some head for the hills, and some throw hurricane parties. Whatever your plans, make sure you take time to protect your home from the ravages of the weather.

Make an appointment today with the experts at One Hour Air in Miami. We can help you prepare your system for the worst of Florida’s weather or get you back up and running after the storm.