How Power Surges Affect Air Conditioners

For Florida residents, air conditioners are as essential as food and water — especially if you have elderly loved ones in your household. They keep your family comfortable, lower humidity levels, and improve indoor air quality. And while there are things you can do on a regular basis to keep it working optimally — such as changing air filters regularly — there are other things that may be out of your control. Such is the case with power surges. How do they affect your AC unit, and is there anything you can do to protect it?

Can a power surge damage an air conditioner?

AC manufacturers in the United States design units to handle 120 volts of electricity. This is because that’s the standard amount that gets distributed to American households. However, under certain circumstances, more power flows through the power lines. This could be due to several reasons — lightning during storms, running too many high-power electrical devices, faulty wiring, the power turning on and off after a natural disaster, or issues with the utility company’s equipment.

Despite all the possible culprits, the most common cause of power surges is lightning, and damage caused to your air conditioner for this reason is usually not covered under your AC’s warranty. And chew on this — when lightning strikes near a power line, it can send an electric spike of about a million volts. This can burn your air conditioner’s capacitor, wires, or compressors.

Do I need a surge protector for my AC?

Surge protectors — also known as surge suppressors, surge diverters, or TVSS (for transient voltage surge suppressors) — can protect all appliances in your home. But, for high voltage systems like your air conditioner, it’s more beneficial to install a surge arrestor. They work the same way as surge protectors but for medium to high voltage appliances. Installing a whole-house arrestor near your electric meter will protect all circuits in your home. If you don’t have one installed at the moment, you can still protect your AC from power surges by turning it off during lightning storms. However, it’d be beneficial to have one, since you’re not home 24/7 and surges could occur at any time — especially in Florida.

Do keep in mind that whole-house arrestors will only protect your appliances from power surges coming from the outside — such as from weather conditions or problems with the utility company’s equipment. They won’t protect your air conditioner from running too many appliances and electronics at the same time.

How can I tell if there was a power surge?

Another way to determine how soon you need to install a surge arrestor is to learn to recognize power surges in your home. If they occur with regularity, you’ll have to prioritize installation. Signs there was a power surge include:

  • Tripped circuit breakers
  • Sudden resetting of electrical devices
  • Failing electrical devices
  • Flashing digital clocks
  • Dimming or flickering lights
  • Buzzing outlets
  • Hot outlets

If You Need to Replace Your AC, We Can Help

At Complete Air Mechanical, we have experienced HVAC professionals who can inspect your AC and — if necessary — install protectors for your home or business. We provide services in Orange, Osceola, Seminole, and Volusia counties, and we offer financing options.

Call us today at (407) 915-0144 or schedule an appointment online.