When hail comes pouring down, the first thing we usually think of is protecting our cars, but those big chunks of frozen rain can also have a debilitating effect on your air conditioning unit as well. Hail storms with hail measuring at least one inch in diameter happen about 7,000 times each year, according to the National Weather Service. It’s easy to see how debris this size could damage any equipment that sits outside.
Vulnerable parts of your air conditioner
The condenser unit is most vulnerable to hail damage. It is housed within protective metal walls and screens, but it is not entirely safe. For one thing, hail can bounce up from the ground into the side of the unit and smash the fins – those thin, flexible vent slats that help direct heat away from air conditioner. If these become flattened or misshaped, your system will have to work harder. That means your equipment performs less efficiently, using more energy, and costing you money.
If the hail is large enough, it can damage the parts inside the coil, such as the aluminum or copper tubes. It might even bend or crack a fan blade – damage which may not be obvious at first. But even a slightly damaged fan blade can cause bigger damage down the road if it leads to a complete shutdown of the air conditioner.
Out of sight perhaps – but causing problems
It’s easy to see the damage to the fins, but less easy to see the damage that may have occurred deeper inside. When one part is damaged, there’s usually a ripple effect that begins to spread. It may start with restricted air flow from smashed fins, and lead to other issues such as:
- Prolonged operation
- Prolonged operation means more energy consumption
- Longer operating times mean shorter parts durability
- Wear and tear on parts leads to service calls and repair bills
- Potentially, wear and tear could lead to early replacement of the unit
If hail damage has done something to block air flow, just know your equipment is working harder and producing less.
Protecting your air conditioner from hail
Here are a couple of measures you can take to help protect your outside cooling equipment:
- When a severe thunderstorm is forecast, you might simply place a tarp over your air conditioner – but be sure you turn it off first.
- You can install a hail guard over your air conditioner to protect it at all times. This is a screen-like filter made from a heavy-duty fiber that still allows air flow.
What to do when there’s damage
If you can see hail has smashed the fins, you should have a qualified HVAC technician ‘comb’ them out with special equipment designed to do this. The technician can also check to see if your condenser has been more severely damaged. Even as little as 10% damage will negatively impact your system’s efficiency.
1Check your homeowner’s insurance policy to see if hail damage is covered, and be persistent. Just because the unit still works, doesn’t mean it’s working the way it should.