In the United States, we are fortunate to have really reliable power grids. In fact, power tends to be so reliable here that we sort of take it for granted.
This means that we don’t necessarily expect things like power surges and power outages, but they do occur. While rare, these events can cause damage to a furnace, air conditioner or any other appliance that relies on electricity. You can quickly and easily replace a toaster or coffee maker that is damaged by a power surge, but what about the larger components of your HVAC system? These are definitely more costly and difficult to repair or replace.
The power supply in the U.S. continues to be pretty steady and predictable. Nonetheless, unforeseen events do occur. When they do, it could cost homeowners hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
If you believe that your HVAC system has been damaged by a power surge or a power outage, call Delaware Heating and Air today. Our HVAC experts are ready to help you make your home safe and comfortable again.
Comparing Power Surges to Power Outages
Both power surges and power outages have the ability to damage electronics like your furnace and air conditioner. However, these are two very different occurrences.
With a power outage, there is no electricity entering your home. Perhaps the culprit is bad wiring in your home or a break in the line. Most frequently, the problem either is a power station breakdown or an accident or mishap that damages the local electric lines.
A blackout occurs when a power outage affects a large area, such as several streets or even an entire town. A related occurrence is called a brownout. This term refers to an extreme dip in the power level, which may manifest as a dimming of the lights in your home.
At the opposite end of the spectrum to a brownout or a blackout is the power surge. In this scenario, too much power is coming into your home.
Virtually every residence in America receives electrical power rated at 120 volts. Accordingly, the companies that make furnaces, air conditioners and other appliances have designed their products to work with this level of electrical power, though some of these larger appliances do use 220 volt power.
It’s also critical to understand that homes are set up with alternating current, which means that electricity flows into the home and back out. With this design, the power that leaves your home is exiting at greater than 120 volts. This is a result of voltage loss through resistance that occurs between the power station and your home.
Inside your home is an alternator that regulates the voltage that comes into it to ensure that a steady 120 volts is being received.
On occasion, a much stronger current explodes through the power lines. This may be caused by a lightning strike or a problem with the electrical lines.
Regardless of where the problem originates, your home has just received a huge, unneeded jolt of electricity. It’s far too much for your alternator to regulate, so all of the appliances and systems in your home that run on electricity may be adversely affected.
What Do Power Surges Do to Air Conditioners and Furnaces?
Any appliance or system in your home may be damaged by a power surge. Damaged big-ticket items like a furnace or air conditioner can represent a huge expense in the aftermath of a surge.
When your home is the victim of a power surge, the capacitors in all of your electronics are unable to regulate the extra power. These capacitors are sized to only handle so much power. When they get an overload, they can burn up. With the capacitors off line, the furnace or air conditioner simply quits working.
At the same time, that oversized electrical current is generating a ton of heat. The stronger the surge is, the more heat there is. Electronic components are relatively delicate. If they get too hot, then parts like circuit boards short out. Suddenly, you no longer have a working HVAC system.
You use surge protectors to keep things like laptops and televisions safe from these types of events. They are inexpensive and work well, but they frequently are not used on larger appliances like furnaces and air conditioners.
Did you know that you oil or gas furnace also requires electricity? It’s true! If that oil or gas furnace gets too much electricity in one shot, it can break just like an electrical air conditioning unit.
Can You Protect Yourself from a Power Surge?
You may be able to prevent some damage from power surges by doing things like:
- Unplugging electronic devices when they are not in use;
- Using power strips or surge protectors whenever possible;
- Having old wiring updated; and
- Buying some volt surge protectors.
Unplugging appliances and devices that aren’t being used is an easy thing to do. It only takes a moment, and it provides all sorts of protection. In fact, this is a particularly critical measure to take during a power outage. Unplug as many appliances and devices as you can think of before the power comes back on to protect those items from an unexpected surge.
Whenever possible, plug in smaller appliances and electronics in power strips and surge protectors. This is an especially wise idea for those items that you would rather leave plugged in.
However, what should you do if you feel like your home is getting a lot of power surges? The best advice is to have an electrician come out to your home to take a look at your wiring. That’s especially true if you live in an older home that may have outdated wiring. Keep in mind that 30, 40 or 50 years ago, people just didn’t use as many electrical devices as we do today. Your old wiring simply may not be able to keep up.
Another smart move that you can make is to investigate having volt surge protectors installed for your appliances. These special surge protectors are designed to handle the 220-volt appliances that are common in American homes. Having volt surge protectors installed means that your large appliances, including furnaces and air conditioning units, won’t be as susceptible to power surge damage.
When compared with the cost of having a furnace or air conditioner replaced, the cost of a volt surge protector is minimal, and it’s the best way to keep your home comfortable and habitable no matter what happens at the power station.
Do You Need to Reset Your AC After a Power Outage?
If a storm or other event has caused a power outage in your area, then it may be necessary to restart your air conditioner. Use these basic steps to get it done efficiently and safely:
- Use the thermostat to turn off the AC;
- Use the circuit breaker to turn off the air conditioner;
- Use the circuit breaker to turn the air conditioner on;
- Wait approximately one-half hour; and then
- Use the thermostat to turn the system back on.
These basic steps will ensure that your AC unit returns to full capacity in the shortest amount of time. Remember that a power surge always follows a power outage, so it’s important to restart your HVAC system the right way. If things don’t get back to normal, then give Delaware Heating and Air a call.
What About Restarting a Gas Furnace?
If your gas furnace needs to be restarted, start by checking its control panel. A flashing error message indicates a need for immediate repair. Attempting to restart it from this state will probably fail. Similarly, problems like a blown fuse or damaged lines are best left to professionals who can handle the repairs safely and efficiently.
If you aren’t seeing a flashing error message, then it may be safe to try to restart your gas furnace by yourself. Before starting, ensure that there’s no standing water in your home. Bear in mind as well that a furnace that is between 15 and 20 years old probably needs to be replaced with a safer and more efficient model.
A newer gas furnace can be restarted with the press of a single restart button. However, make certain that you only hit that button once. Doing so multiple times may engage the safety lock, making it impossible to restart the unit.
Don’t forget to check your thermostat to see if its power is off. If it is, turn it on and set it to the automatic fan setting or heat. If the thermostat is already on, take a moment to restart it.
Check your breaker panel as well to see if anything needs to be turned back on. If your panel is missing some labels, look for a 15A circuit, which is commonly used for furnaces.
Is your furnace connected to a GFCI outlet? If so, then you may want to check to see if it was tripped in the power outage.
Call Delaware Heating and Air
Power surges are unexpected events, and they can be devastating, especially if you are unprepared. If you want to protect your furnace and air conditioner, talk to Delaware Heating and Air about having a volt surge protector installed today.
If you believe that your HVAC system was damaged by a power surge, then call us to get expert advice for repairing or replacing any damaged components. Delaware Heating and Air is your local expert in the HVAC industry.