Using Your System During a Thunderstorm

Thunderstorms thrive in the hot, humid summer conditions that make you crank up the air conditioner.

Your air conditioner may be damaged if you operate it during a thunderstorm, so it’s best to shut it down when the weather starts to become uncooperative.

When storms roll in, humidity and temperatures drop, so you can still get some relief even if your air conditioner is not in use. It is important to turn off your air conditioner during a thunderstorm because of lightning strikes and air conditioner damage. Even though lightning strikes to the home are rare, they are undeniably possible during a storm. Electric service drops, where your utility lines connect to your house on the roof, are very vulnerable to lightning strikes. If lightning strikes at this point, it can cause a significant surge of electricity through your home’s electrical system. Five billion joules of energy can pass through your home’s wiring before the breaker trips. If your air conditioner is in operation, this surge can seriously damage it in a fraction of a second. Lightning strikes can damage your air conditioner and render it unusable. The plug can melt. Control panels of air conditioners contain sensitive electrical circuitry that can be damaged, resulting in extensive repairs or even replacement of the entire unit. If a lighting strike occurs during operation, the heating and cooling system’s controls can be corrupted. Surge protectors don’t provide the level of protection needed against a surge caused by a lightning strike, so plugging your AC into one won’t have the benefits you’d expect. If you live in an area where lightning strikes often, you can protect your air conditioner by installing a lightning protection system. Using lightning rods, conductors, and ground rods, you will create an alternate path for lightning to reach the ground so that lightning will not travel through the home’s electrical system. Since these systems aren’t 100 percent effective at preventing surges, it’s still best to keep your air conditioner off when storms break out.

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