Florida summers are no stranger to potentially strong weather, often including
lightning storms. With high humidity and a large amount of static electricity
in the air, monsoon rains featuring lightning are pretty commonplace.
However, while being struck by lightning is an extraordinarily rare occurrence,
it’s not unheard of for lightning to strike buildings, including
offices and homes alike.
A lightning strike on your home could also present a serious problem for
your HVAC system. Because lightning is a gigantic release of static electricity,
it could have a serious impact and possibly even destroy anything that’s
plugged in at the time. On this blog, we’ll explain what happens
to your HVAC system during a lightning strike and how you can prepare for it.
What Lightning Does to Your Home
There are a few things you need to know about lightning. First: lightning
is a gigantic surge of power in the range of millions of volts. Second,
it behaves exactly as electricity does, which is to say it’s constantly
looking for the shortest path of least resistance to get to the ground.
Air is actually a really strong insulator against electrical charges,
which means the charge needs to overcome a tremendous amount of resistance
in order to arc from its origination point in the clouds to anything down
below. Taller objects decrease this distance, thus reducing the resistance,
and encouraging lightning strikes. This is why lightning tends to strike
tall, metal objects: they’re excellent conductors and greatly reduce
the amount of energy needed for the charge to jump.
For this reason, it’s exceedingly rare that lightning strikes your
outdoor air conditioning unit. Your outdoor unit is usually somewhere
in the range of about three feet to three and a half feet tall. Even the
shortest homes have a roof that’s usually 12 feet or more above
the ground, thus meaning lightning is more likely to strike your roof,
so long as there’s minimal resistance for the charge to reach the
ground. When it’s wet and rainy, it’s perfectly possible that
your home becomes this object of less resistance that the charge is drawn to.
However, a single lightning strike can send a million-plus-volt surge of
electricity through your home’s electrical grid. That’s enough
power to damage nearly anything that’s plugged in at the time, from
small objects like computers and cell phones to major appliances like
your refrigerator, microwave, television, and, yes, even your HVAC system.
Sending millions of volts of energy through sensitive electronic components
can fry them in an instant, making them completely useless and requiring
you to replace them. This is known as a “power surge.”
So how can you protect yourself from a sudden power surge with the magnitude
of a lightning strike? The first thing is to protect your home by giving
lightning a free path to the ground through a lightning rod. A lightning
rod is a tall metal rod connected to a metal wire that runs down into
the ground below your home. When the rod is mounted on the highest point
of your roof, the low resistance to reach the ground causing lightning
to strike this particular feature, sending the charge safely down to the
ground and preventing it from damaging your home and anything inside.
Second, because lightning strikes are so unpredictable, many people will
choose to plug in their most sensitive electronics behind devices known
as “surge protectors.” Surge protectors are special devices
that monitor the voltage and current of the power flowing through them.
Should a surge happen, the sudden overload of electricity causes the protector
to trip, blowing a fuse and shutting off the connection between your electrical
system and the device plugged into it. This may cause the surge protector
to need replaced, but it will save the device plugged in from blowing out.
Finally, if you really want to protect your HVAC system, the best way to
do so is to not only install your system on a surge protector, but to
unplug your system entirely when thunderstorms start to appear. Unplugging
your devices ensures that they remain completely protected in the event
of a lightning strike, and thus preventing you from having to replace
them or undertake extensive repairs.
If your HVAC system suffers serious damage as a result of an electric surge,
call the Palm Beach County air conditioning repair experts at Phoenix Air Conditioning, LLC at (888) 660-4337 today!