AC Not Working After Power Surge? Find Out What to Do.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018 - 11:47am
AC Not Working After Power Surge
This post was written with the expertise of JC Heating & Cooling, a La Grange HVAC Service Company.

Storms can wreak havoc causing flooding, damage to your home and car, and even power surges that fry appliances. Often times the first thing to turn off after this spike of electricity is the air conditioning. In order to get it up and going, we first need to understand power surges.

What is a power surge? It is a spike in your house’s electricity which usually shuts off electrical equipment like appliances and televisions. This burst of electricity can last for only a moment - a hundredth of a second in some cases - but can cause irreparable damage in the form of fire or frying motors.

What causes a power surge? Power surges can be caused by a couple things - the most obvious being nearby lightning strikes by storms. Any of your high powered electrical devices, such as air conditioners, can cause a spike and send a surge throughout the house.

How can I avoid a power surge? The most important thing to do is to make sure you don't have any faulty wiring. If you are in the clear you should look into purchasing a surge protector. Ideally, you want a device that is flexible, has plenty of outlets, and things like ethernet and coax ports.

So, my AC stopped working - what do I need to do?

Before I go outlining the necessary process there are a few things you need to know - the breaker refers to the switch inside the metal box that controls your house’s electricity, the thermostat is the device you control the AC with. Knowing where both are will be needed to reset your AC.

I’m starting to sweat - what do I need to do turn my AC back on? First, you need to turn the AC off at the thermostat - this ensures that the machine doesn’t pull electricity despite both the internal and/or external breakers are off. Simply slide the switch into the off position and go toward your breaker box.

Where is my breaker box? Most breaker boxes are located in the garage but can vary. Once you get to the box, locate the AC breaker - because of how much electricity it pulls it’ll be on a double breaker. Flip the switch to the full off position, wait a couple seconds, and then flip the switch back to on.

Should I turn my thermostat back on now? You are going to want to wait the 30 minutes before turning your AC back on - the reason for this is because it is likely the AC’s internal breaker needs to be reset. If the thermostat is calling for any cooling, this breaker will not reset.

So I waited the 30 minutes and turned it back on, but nothing happened. What’s up? This may be indicative of electrical damage. Go back and check the breaker to see if it is tripped. If it is that means the breaker is doing its job of shutting down the flow of electricity because the current is too high - but you may have to replace the breaker itself.

So my breaker is broken, how do I replace it? StatUpBox has a great video on how to change a breaker. Before you start make sure you have a voltage detector, needle nose pliers, a flathead and phillips screwdriver, and electrical tape. If you feel uncomfortable changing the breaker out, go ahead and get an electrician to look at it.

How do I know if I need to replace my AC?

The typical lifespan for most ACs is around 15 to 20 years, if you are approaching these numbers you might want to look at a new unit. A good rule of thumb is if the unit is over ¾ of its lifespan and fixing it is ⅓ the cost to just replace it, you are better off with a new unit.

What can I do to make sure this doesn’t happen again? You’re going to want to do regular maintenance on your AC. This includes changing out your air filters at least once every three months, cleaning the evaporator and air conditioning coils. Doing this will not only ensure your system is more hardy, but run more efficiently as well.

How do I protect my AC from storms and power surges? If you know a storm is coming, make sure that your air conditioning unit is properly strapped down and on an elevated platform. Typically power surges happen right before a power outage, so if you think that is imminent go ahead and shut down your AC and other equipment.

Should I try to come up with some sort of plan in case of an emergency? Absolutely. Natural disasters don’t always let us know when they are coming. There are HVAC Emergency Guides for free that can greatly improve your chances of avoiding a catastrophe with your AC and other appliances.

Is there anything else I should know?
If your AC has turned off in case of a power surge you don’t need to despair - it takes only a few steps and about thirty minutes to find out if there is any lasting damage. Make sure you perform regular maintenance and take the necessary precautions to avoid this in the future.

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