Posted: August 8, 2013

Hurricane Season is here, and Hampton Roads’ geography makes it especially important to prepare. Even if you’re on the Peninsula or farther inland in Williamsburg or Yorktown, preparation is still critical because a hurricane’s projected path can change quickly and still inflict damage upon many different areas.

Many things come to mind when creating a hurricane safety or emergency plan. But do you include storm-proofing your HVAC system in your hurricane preparations? Regardless of the intensity of the storm or the need to evacuate Hampton Roads, here are some ways to protect your HVAC investment when you might be in the path of a hurricane.
The first step is to turn off your AC or HVAC unit if you are evacuating. If you are riding out the storm, shut off your system if a power outage is imminent. Yes, it will get uncomfortably warm and humid, but this is an important step to prevent burning out the compressor or blowing out the circuits when electricity is restored to your home or business after a power outage. While flooding is usually less common on the Peninsula than in South Hampton Roads, turning off the unit is still an important safety measure if there is flooding or storm damage and your HVAC unit needs to be repaired after the storm. If you rely on window units for air conditioning, unplug them.

If possible, cover your exterior HVAC unit securely with a tarp or plastic sheeting. While this is not guaranteed protection for the unit, it can help to avoid damage from tree branches or flying debris, and it can facilitate the clean-up process after the storm. It can also help to keep excessive water out of the exterior unit, which could contribute to mold growth.

After a storm, don’t immediately turn your system back on. While you’ll understandably want to cool down your house or business, there could be electrical or structural damage to the unit. If it’s been flooded or if you haven’t been able to return home for a more than a couple of days, there could be mold growing inside the drain pans or pipes. Have a local HVAC professional check the unit before turning it back on.

If you think there could be mold in the unit or if you’ve had the air turned off for an extended period of time, call Virginia heating and cooling professional to get it cleaned and serviced before turning it back on so that you don’t blow mold throughout the building. And while you should definitely inspect the exterior for any obvious structural damage, a professional will also be better able to identify less visible problems — like mold. In the event of significant flooding, you may have to have your HVAC unit replaced. If you are in an area of Hampton Roads that floods frequently, you may want to find a way to elevate the exterior unit to prevent future flood damage.

While it may not be high on your list of preparation priorities during a storm, these are quick and simple steps you can take amid your other hurricane preparations that can help to protect the time and money you’ve invested in the HVAC system for your home or business.