Strong storms often produce a lot of lightning, and that puts your home at risk of being hit. Although chances are low that your home will be hit during any one storm, if lightning does strike your home, or even close to it, the lightning could cause a lot of damage to your appliances, plumbing, and even your HVAC unit. Here's how lightning might damage your HVAC system and the services your system might need after the incident.
How Lightning Can Damage Your HVAC System
Lightning can cause immediate damage to your HVAC system that causes it to stop working until the damaged parts are replaced. Lightning can also cause damage to certain parts of the system, but not others. This means that your HVAC unit can continue to operate until the damage finally spreads to other parts and causes the system to break down. The capacitor is likely to be damaged in a lightning strike, but it might work well enough to keep your system going. However, the compressor in your AC unit could be damaged by a capacitor that is malfunctioning. That's why it's always wise to inspect your system after a bad storm and call an HVAC service if you suspect lightning damage.
If the AC condenser is struck by lightning directly, you'll know it because of the visible damage to the unit. Pieces might be blown apart, or the unit could be black and charred. If the lightning struck your electrical box, that's pretty obvious too. However, if lightning strikes nearby and causes a power surge, you may not see any visible damage. You might not realize until weeks later that your HVAC was harmed by the surge.
Repairs Your HVAC System Might Need
Whether the damage is instant or gradual, the electrical components of your HVAC system could be damaged. These parts include the thermostat, air handler, and condenser. Any part that uses electricity could be affected by a power surge from a lightning strike, even if the lightning didn't hit your house directly. A strike on the power company's equipment can ruin your HVAC unit just like a direct hit, but the damage might not be easy to see.
If your condenser gets a direct hit, it will need to be replaced since its wires will probably be charred and melted together. Plus, if the compressor is damaged, you're looking at an expensive repair, so it's sometimes best to just replace the entire condenser rather than just the compressor. Your HVAC system might need extensive repairs after a lightning strike, but you could get lucky and only need to have the capacitor replaced, and doing so promptly could prevent further damage to the compressor. An HVAC service can check your system after a lightning strike to determine the degree of damage it sustained and if your system can be repaired.