How To Protect Your Furnace and AC From Power Surges
This time of year, you may be dreaming about cooler weather and wondering if winter will ever come. However, it won’t be long before those cold winds begin to blow. Soon it will be time to start getting your furnace ready for winter.
You may already be thinking about changing your furnace filters, dusting off the burners and inspecting your chimney, all on your to-do list as the seasons march toward fall. While Mother Nature is still blasting the heat, there’s one thing you’ll want to consider to be sure your furnace will come on when you need it — have surge protection in your home.
What are power surges, and how do they affect my furnace?
Power surges are brief spikes in your home’s electrical current. They happen when the flow of electricity is interrupted and then starts again, or when a sudden influx of power comes into the system. Power surges usually last only a fraction of a second, but they can cause intense damage to the electrical equipment in your home. In extreme cases, they can even cause house fires!
Most people immediately think about their computer when the topic of power surges arises. Many are aware that appliances and other electronic units such as microwaves, refrigerators and TVs are also at risk for damage through a power surge. But did you know that power surges can wreak havoc on your HVAC system as well?
Furnaces and air conditioners are sensitive
It’s hard to think of heating and air conditioning units as “sensitive,” but most modern furnaces and air conditioners contain highly sensitive electronics, similar to those in your computer or plasma TV. When a power surge hits, it can blow out your furnace just as easily as your smaller devices. However, the replacement cost for a furnace is typically a LOT higher.
What causes a power surge?
Lightning is the best-known cause, but there are many conditions that can create an electrical surge in your home. Power surges can come from outside your home, from such things as lightning, electrical line damage or power grid distribution activity. They also can come from sources inside your home, such as large or small appliances.
In fact, one of the most likely causes of a power surge in your home is another important part of your HVAC system — your air conditioning unit.
How can my air conditioning cause a power surge?
In the summer, your air conditioner is constantly turning on and off in response to your thermostat’s call for cool air. Each time it turns off and stops drawing electricity, it causes a sudden increase in voltage throughout your home’s electrical system. Most of the time this won’t be strong enough to cause a problem. But every once in a while, especially on a very hot day when the unit is under heavy use, it can be enough to cause serious damage to your electrical devices — including your furnace.
There are several factors that can increase the likelihood of your air conditioner creating a damaging power surge:
- Faulty wiring in the home. If your wiring is frayed, kinked or pinched, it can obstruct the flow of electricity and contribute to a power surge.
- Improperly sized A/C unit. An air conditioner that is too small to handle the load will run more frequently, increasing your chance of a surge.
- Inefficient A/C unit. Older air conditioning units tend to run more frequently and are more likely to adversely affect electrical flow in your home. Installing a high-efficiency air conditioner can help.
It is important to note that modern air conditioners also contain microchips and other sensitive electronic components. Thus, they also are subject to damage from power surges.
Contact us today to learn more about your power surge options!
How can I protect my HVAC system from power surges?
In this day and age, no household should be without a surge protector. This is a device that absorbs excess electricity and channels it toward the grounding wire in your home. In all but the most powerful surges — such as those caused by a direct lightning strike to your home — this will protect your sensitive electronic devices.
There are many types of surge protectors on the market. You are probably familiar with the power strips that can be installed between a computer or other device and the wall. It’s a good idea to install a power strip on any valuable electronic device or appliance.
You can also get a whole house surge protector, a device that connects directly to your electrical panel and provides protection to your entire house at once. Installing a whole house surge protector is the best way to ensure that all your valuable electronic possessions are protected.
In a climate such as Chicago’s where we experience frequent electrical storms, it doesn’t hurt to use both whole house surge protection and individual power strips. However, if you have to rely on one, the whole house option is your best bet.
Finally, be aware that not all surge protectors are equal. When you shop for these devices, you will notice that prices vary considerably. As a rule, you get what you pay for. Considering the replacement cost of many electronic devices, it’s generally worth it to invest in higher-end protectors. Look for ones that are rated 600 joules or higher.
How to choose a whole house surge protector
You can purchase a surge protector for your home online or at building supply stores. However, it’s important to be sure you’re getting one that is appropriate for your needs. That means taking into account your electrical loads as well as the condition of your home’s wiring. Installing an inappropriate unit can put your devices and even your entire home at risk. Therefore, it is best to consult a qualified professional.
At Mendel, we offer both electrical and heating and air conditioning services, so installing whole house surge protection is second nature to us. Plus, our estimates are always free! If you’re concerned about keeping your furnace, air conditioner and other appliances and devices safe from damage, contact us today and we’ll help you choose the best surge protection solution for your home.
Protect Your HVAC System
If you need help making sure your home is power surge ready, call Mendel Plumbing & Heating today - 630-377-3608.