is it bad to have ac on during thunderstorm

If you live in a stormy area, hot and humid summer nights may make you wonder, “is it bad to have ac on during thunderstorm?” Is it safe? “

Although reaching for your air conditioner’s dial to turn up the cold air running through your home might be tempting, we all know that heat and moisture can lead to thunderstorms.

While it may seem like a no-brainer to keep your air conditioner on to avoid the humidity that comes with rain, you may ask yourself, “Can I have my AC on during a storm?”

The short answer is no; you should turn your AC unit off during a storm to decrease the risks of lightning strikes and damage.

Why Is It Bad to Have AC On During Thunderstorm?

why bad have ac on during thunderstorm

If you run your air conditioning unit during a storm, you put your unit –and your house– at risk of a lightning strike.

Lightning strikes are rare, but they do happen. Your air conditioner unit connects to your house through utility lines located on the roof.

If lightning strikes your AC unit, it can cause a massive power surge across your electrical system, melting the plug and damaging the controls and internal electrical circuits.

The resulting damage to your air conditioner may be so severe that it can even become unusable. 

Such issues will require extensive repairs or even an HVAC replacement.

It’s better to be safe than sorry. The best way to prevent this from happening is to keep your air conditioner unit off for the entirety of the storm.

Power surges can destroy your unit –or even worse– start a fire that could devastate your home.

Is There Any Way To Protect My AC Unit From a Thunderstorm?

ways to protect ac unit

If you feel you must run your air conditioner while it storms, there are steps to take to protect your home and air conditioner unit.

Invest in products such as lightning rods or conductors to aim any lightning strikes into the ground rather than toward your air conditioning unit.

Surge protectors can help, but they will not do much against a lightning strike.

Unfortunately, not running your unit is the best step you can take to protect yourself and your belongings.

How Can I Stay Cool During a Storm When I Turn Off My AC Unit?

stay cool even ac is turned off

If it is extremely hot or humid outside while it is storming, there are ways you can still stay cool without turning your air conditioning unit on.

Start by keeping yourself hydrated. Sometimes when you’re feeling hot, it means you’re dehydrated. Be sure to continue drinking water throughout the day as well.

If you’re still feeling too warm after drinking water, try to make sure you have some box fans or personal fans on hand to use while you turn your AC unit off.

Turn on ceiling fans as well for some relief from the cool air.

Be sure to take a look at what you are wearing. Is your clothing light and breathable?

If not, change into an outfit that is more suitable for hot and humid weather.

Go to the lower levels of the house. Hot air rises, so spending time in your home’s lowest level – the basement, if possible – will help you stay cooler.

You should also avoid turning on your stove if possible, as there’s nothing that will warm up an already-humid room quicker than a toasty stove.

Chop up a salad or other refrigerated meal. Even better – be sure to have some popsicles or ice cream on hand in your freezer at all times in the summer.

Tip: Shut all the doors of empty rooms to help the cooler air stay only in occupied areas.

What Should I Do if a Storm Damages My AC Unit?

storm damages my ac unit

Sometimes you will be able to tell right away if your AC unit is damaged, but sometimes it can stop working slowly over months.

If you quickly notice that your AC unit is not working, your best bet is to call a trusted HVAC technician to come to take a look.

You can attempt to troubleshoot, but if there is immediate damage, you should leave the repair to the experts.

If you’re worried that your AC unit was harmed by the storm but aren’t positive, there are ways you can check on your own. 

Start with the AC unit’s thermostat. If that is off and not working, the lightning most likely harmed your AC unit.

You can also try turning on the fan to ensure the motors are working correctly.

Depending on how well you know your unit, you can also check the inner wires and fuses, the circuit breaker, the compressor, and the capacitor.

If you’re unsure about how any of these components work, call an HVAC technician to take a look for you.

Remember that repairs can be expensive, so it is always in your best interest to take preventive measures and turn off your air conditioner when there is lightning outside.

How Can Other Types of Weather Affect My AC Unit?

other types of weather

A thunderstorm with lightning present is the biggest threat to your AC unit, but there are some other forms of weather you should keep an eye out for as the summer goes on.

Hail storms

Hail can fall hard and strong and can cause significant dents and damage to the outside of your air conditioning unit.

While this won’t usually be as big of an issue as a lightning strike, it can still impact the efficiency of your unit.

If your AC unit has metal portions that face the elements, try covering it with a tarp while hail falls from the sky to protect it.


the heatwaves

This might seem ironic, but the very thing your air conditioner protects you from might be its downfall!

If you have a newer unit, you probably won’t have to worry about this, but folks with older air conditioners may want to invest in a new one during a particularly hot summer.

Extreme heat can cause your air conditioning unit to work overtime, and older units will struggle to function under pressing conditions.

Keep an eye on the forecast and the age of your unit to plan the best time to replace it.

You don’t want to get caught in a heatwave with a broken air conditioner!


a tornado

If you live in an area prone to tornadoes –or even just strong winds– be sure to keep an eye on your air conditioner.

These natural phenomena can cause branches, furniture, or other debris to knock into your unit and cause damage.

Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do to prevent this issue other than investing in a removable cover.

The cover will at least protect it as much as possible from the elements.


the snow

Most AC units are built to handle snowfall in the winter, but if you do not take care of ice build-up, you’ll find yourself without a functional unit once the snow melts.

Ice can build up inside your unit and cause rust and breakdown of the interior parts.

This can easily be prevented by cleaning snow off of your unit and putting a cover on it.

Tip: Frequently check your AC unit for ice.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, we’ve provided you with all the key information to answer the question, “Is it bad to have AC on during a thunderstorm?”

Now that you know the answer is yes, be sure to keep our recommendations in mind when the next thunderstorm approaches.

Remember to always turn off your AC unit during a thunderstorm, and make sure to call an HVAC technician to inspect it if you think it has been damaged after a storm.

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