Is Your HVAC System Protected From Power Surges?

image of an electrical storm depicting hvac surge protection

HVAC systems are crucial in modern homes and offices, providing occupants with a safe and comfortable indoor space. However, these systems are vulnerable to power surges that can result in significant damage and downtime. Power surges usually happen because of electrical grid fluctuations, power outages, and lightning strikes. A power surge means an electrical current suddenly rushes through the system, which may damage the control board, compressor, fan motor, and other critical components. This can result in expensive repairs, or you may even need a total system replacement. It is important to make sure your system has HVAC surge protection. Therefore, it is recommended that you install a surge protector and follow the best ways to achieve electrical safety.

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Is Your HVAC System Protected From Power Surges?

If you are wondering about this HVAC issue, you likely do not have any protection in place from power surges. Ensure that your system can survive power surges by having an HVAC professional help you. They can give advice and suggestions on improving your system so it can handle power surges and outages.

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What is a Power Surge?

image of a lightning storm depicting heating and cooling unit power surges

A power surge is a sudden electrical voltage jolt exceeding the expected or typical level in a power supply system. Power surges can occur when the electricity flow experiences a sudden interruption, like power outages and lightning strikes. It can also be caused when air conditioners, elevators, refrigerators, or other large electrical equipment turn on or off.

A power surge can last for just a fraction of a second. However, your electrical devices and appliances can incur severe damage from this issue. The extra electrical energy can overload and damage the sensitive electrical parts in these devices, resulting in them becoming defective or failing completely.

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Power Surge, Power Outage, and Brownout: What’s the Difference?

Power surges, power outages, and brownouts are all linked to your electrical power supply issues. However, they are different problems. Listed below are short explanations of each case:

  • Power surge: A power surge is a quick and short spike in electrical voltage that usually lasts for a fraction of a second. Power surges can occur because of lightning strikes, power outages, or the operation of high-powered electrical equipment. Surges can damage electronic appliances and devices, so installing surge protectors to safeguard against them is usually recommended.
  • Power outage: A power outage happens when the electrical power supply in an area or structure is interrupted, meaning there is a complete power loss. It can be caused by severe weather, scheduled maintenance, equipment failure, and other factors.
  • Brownout: A brownout is when the electrical power supply experiences a voltage drop, causing the lights to dim or flicker, the power to appliances to be reduced, and other similar problems. Some of the reasons brownouts can occur are equipment failure, high demand on the power grid, or issues with the electrical system in an area or building.

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HVAC Components Affected By A Power Surge

Power surges can impact various HVAC components, such as the following:

HVAC Control Board

image of an hvac unit circuit board

The control board acts as the HVAC system’s “brain.” Unfortunately, a power surge can damage it and cause it to break down, interrupting its communication with the thermostat. This damage can cause the HVAC unit to become faulty, resulting in insufficient cooling or heating. Your home may then experience extreme temperatures, leaving you feeling uncomfortable.

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HVAC Compressor Motor

The compressor motor in your HVAC system is a box with wires extending from it. It is responsible for taking the refrigerant at a cool temperature and low pressure and compressing it to increase the temperature and pressure.

The motor is the compressor’s main component and is susceptible to damage. It consists of several wires that convert electrical energy into kinetic energy. A power surge can cause the wires to overheat from the electrical energy, which can lead to combustion. Moreover, a damaged motor cannot run properly, causing the compressor to malfunction.

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HVAC Capacitor

multimeter and run capacitors of an outdoor air conditioning unit

The capacitor is an oval-shaped device that stores the electrical charge powering your HVAC system’s electrical components. The capacitor can get damaged if a power surge occurs, causing issues with the proper functioning of your HVAC unit.

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HVAC Relay Switch

The switch is responsible for activating or deactivating certain parts of your HVAC system that need high-voltage power. For example, a coil is wrapped around the electrical contactor in most relay switches. The coil may burn out if the voltage goes over a specific level, disrupting the circuit and causing the relay switch to malfunction. 

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How To Prevent Power Surge Damage To Your HVAC System

image of the words time to unplug depicting unplugging heating and ac unit during lightning storm

HVAC systems can experience significant damage if power surges occur. They may need expensive repairs or replacements. Here are several tips on how you can prevent power surges from damaging your HVAC system:

  1. Install Surge Protectors: Surge protectors can protect your HVAC system from sudden power surges. They can be installed on your HVAC system and electrical panels as additional protection from power surges.
  2. Unplug Appliances During Storms: Make sure to unplug your HVAC system and other electrical appliances during severe weather like thunderstorms. This way, you avoid any damage from power surges or lightning strikes.
  3. Use High-quality Wiring: High-quality parts and wiring can help keep HVAC system damages at bay. It is recommended to have an expert electrician install all wires and components to ensure they are installed correctly.
  4. Maintain Your HVAC System: Regular HVAC system maintenance can help keep your system from getting damaged due to power surges. Maintenance includes checking the refrigerant levels, examining electrical connections, and changing air filters.
  5. Consider a Whole-house Surge Protector: A whole-house surge protector offers complete home protection from power surges, including your HVAC system. Whole-home surge protectors are installed at the main electrical panel so they can protect all of your home appliances.
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Warranty Warning for HVAC Power Surge Damage

HVAC manufacturer warranties don’t cover damages caused by power surges. Homeowners’ insurance may sometimes cover the expenses, but it can be hard to prove these claims as the damage may happen at a gradual pace. You may be liable for expensive HVAC repairs for issues like overworked electrical circuits, lightning strikes, or appliance problems.

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HVAC systems are costly investments necessary to achieve home comfort. Therefore, you must take the required steps to prevent expensive damages caused by power surges. Investing in preventative measures is recommended so you don’t need to get expensive repairs and replacements. Consult reliable HVAC professionals to help you.

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