Preparing Your Commercial HVAC System for Hurricane Season
Any East Coast resident who has endured a hurricane season knows how violent and destructive these storms can be. There’s no arguing with a hurricane; it will surge across the coast and leave millions of dollars worth of damage in its wake. Although you can’t prevent hurricanes or eliminate the possibility of damage from one, you can take steps to prepare your commercial HVAC system for hurricane season. Some relatively simple procedures can reduce the possibility of damage to your HVAC equipment.
- Recognize the Risks
The first step in hurricane preparedness is recognizing the risks that your HVAC system may face during hurricane season.
- Water — In most cases, water damage is probably the most serious risk. Outdoor HVAC units are designed to withstand normal weather conditions, but a hurricane could bring more water than the system can handle. Torrential rains or flooding could overwhelm or submerge the equipment, which could damage it beyond repair.
- Wind — High winds could also be severe enough to dislodge HVAC equipment and cause damage. Trees or electrical poles that fall on outdoor HVAC units can also cause serious problems. A collapsed roof or entire building could lead to the destruction of an HVAC system.
- Lightning — Hurricanes do not normally include lightning, but you can’t assume that there won’t be any lightning strikes during hurricane season. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) notes that during some of the most destructive hurricanes on record, such as Hurricane Katrina, there were significant amounts of lightning. Lightning strikes could destroy the internal electronics of an HVAC system.
During hurricane season, the most important thing to protect is life. If an evacuation order is issued, follow it. More importantly, don’t risk injury or death by trying to cover or secure your HVAC system if the storm is already underway.
- Get maintenance — Before hurricane season begins, you should have your HVAC system checked by a qualified HVAC expert. Preventive maintenance will increase the chance that the equipment will be able to take the lashing it’s likely to get during a hurricane. For example, maintenance personnel can tighten loose components, make sure the equipment is securely tied down, and fix any places where water could get in where it’s not wanted.
- Trim trees and vegetation — Make sure to trim trees and vegetation near the HVAC unit. This can help prevent limbs and sticks from falling on the equipment or getting into the interior components. Remove any nearby dead trees or damaged limbs to keep them from falling on the unit.
- Stay informed — Follow news and weather reports if there is the likelihood of a hurricane. You will usually have some time before a hurricane hits, which will let you take the immediate steps necessary to secure your HVAC system. Here are some of the more important tasks to get your HVAC system ready to withstand an oncoming storm this hurricane season:
- Shut off the system — Turn your HVAC system off at the power switch on the equipment. Disconnect the equipment from the power source if possible. In addition, shut off the circuit breakers that control the HVAC equipment. This will reduce the chance of an electrical surge that could damage or destroy your HVAC system during the storm. It also makes it less likely that damage could occur when electrical power is restored.
- Cover the unit — Cover the outdoor unit with a tarp or other sturdy covering. Board up the unit if necessary and if you have time. Covering the unit will help keep out rain, mud, sticks, and other debris that could get stuck inside the system.
Our goal is to help educate our customers about Plumbing, HVACR, Fire Protection, and Alarm Systems in Mechanical, Commercial, and Residential settings. For more information on getting your commercial HVAC system ready for hurricane season, or to view projects we’ve worked on, visit our website!
Photo Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center via Compfight cc