As dreamy as it is to live in paradise, the Gulf Coast of Florida can be far from peaceful when facing hurricanes. The Atlantic hurricane season spans from June 1st through the end of November. The first part of the 2023 storm season has been relatively quiet, but the NOAA warns not to get too comfortable. Peak hurricane season occurs between August and October, putting us right in the middle of it. We’ll use our expertise to give you some tips on how to prepare your home’s air conditioning, plumbing, and electrical systems for riding out the storms.
The best advice we can give you right off the bat is not to underestimate a hurricane and always take evacuation advisories seriously. If you’ve already been given the order to evacuate, you should do so immediately. If you haven’t been told to evacuate and you have plenty of time before the storm rolls in, here are our tips for you:
1. How to prepare your air conditioning for a hurricane
Install surge protection
Install surge protection designed specifically for air conditioner units to protect them from electrical damage. Between lightning strikes and damage to power lines, surges can be expected even if the hurricane doesn’t hit your home directly. At Air & Energy, we install a variety of Ditek Surge Protectors to help protect your home.
Shut off the electricity to your AC
Shut off the electricity to your A/C if a hurricane is about to hit your area. This will allow you to safely cover the unit to protect it from dirt, mud, and flying debris. Your A/C likely has its own breaker on your electrical panel that you can easily switch off. Turning off your A/C breaker is especially important if you plan on evacuating to fully protect your unit from surges, spikes, and brown outs. Before the storm hits, we recommend running the air conditioning colder than you usually would so you can fill your home up with cool, comfortable air before you shut off the unit. Trane refers to this as pre-cooling your home.
Strap the outdoor unit down securely
This advice is most relevant for outdoor A/C units installed in precarious places like rooftops. Get those hurricane straps out and make sure that A/C won’t budge when the wind starts throwing tree limbs at it! If it’s been a while since you’ve checked your hurricane straps, or you don’t have any at all, give us a call! We can inspect them for rust or other signs of wear, or we can install new ones for you.
Inspect your AC before turning it back on
If the area around your unit has flooded, make sure to keep the electricity to the unit off. Your air conditioner will have to dry out completely before it can safely run again. Trane points out “storm winds many cause disconnections within your AC unit, which could lead to toxic refrigerant leaks.” If you’re worried, just call your local air conditioning company to check it out before restarting the system. We’re happy to help.
2. How to prepare your plumbing for a hurricane
Turn off the main water valve
Turn off the main water valve to your house if a hurricane is about to make landfall near you. This is a common tip you may have heard before, but we’ll explain why it’s a good idea. Turning off the main water valve helps to keep potentially contaminated water from getting into your home’s pipes and fixtures. You turn the water back on after a storm when the local authorities tell you it’s safe to. Keep an eye on the news after the storm. Even then, be sure to run cold water through all the taps for about 5 minutes to flush any contaminated water out.
Fill up buckets with fresh drinking water
Fill up buckets with clean water before the storm hits. You still need water, and since you’re shutting off your main water valve, it won’t be coming from your sink. A few classic, clean 5-gallon buckets will do the trick. If you’re planning ahead, you can buy food grade buckets. Emergency supplies often run low when a storm is expected, so don’t rely on buying bottled water as your only last-minute storm plan. Some people also fill their sinks and bathtubs in a pinch, which is not recommended for drinking, but it is useful for washing, flushing, and other functional purposes.
Shut off the water heater
You won’t be taking hot showers during the hurricane… or at least you shouldn’t be. If your main water valve is shut off, it’s a good idea to shut off the power to your water heater so it doesn’t try to heat up water when water isn’t flowing. Similarly to your A/C unit, shutting off power to your water heater is the best way to protect it from power surges.
Turn off pool pumps
Once your home’s water is shut off, you’ll want to make sure pool pumps and other automatic plumbing fixtures are turned off so as not to damage them.
After the storm has passed, look out for symptoms of plumbing issues. Air in the pipes could indicate a broken pipe. Drains that are clogged after the storm could mean debris from the storm is stuck in the pipes. If you have any concerns, call your local plumber to take a look.
3. How to prepare your electrical systems for a hurricane
Install whole-home surge protection
Install surge protection ahead of storm season. Nearby storm activity and repair efforts by utility companies can cause frequent power fluctuations throughout storm season. Televisions, refrigerators, computers, and even ovens are all at risk of damage from power surges. If you’re interested in installing a whole-home surge protector, we offer many levels of protection! Either give us a call, or schedule an appointment online today!
Ensure your outdoor and garage outlets are GFCIs
During a storm, one thing is certain – everything gets wet. GFCI outlets are specifically designed to prevent short circuiting and electrocution injuries. They cut off power as soon as a disturbance is detected, and they’re recommended for any “wet” areas of the home like bathrooms, kitchens, garages, and anywhere outdoors.
A KOHLER whole-home generator is a great investment
A KOHLER generator can automatically restore power to your whole home without any extra work on your end during a storm. Within 10 seconds of an outage, a Kohler whole-home generator restores power to your entire home, including your air conditioner and refrigerator. Having reliable back up power for your house means you can ride out the storm in comfort.
- We install whole-home generators, which are permanent fixtures that provide backup power to your entire house. If you are using a portable generator instead, be aware that there are some risks associated with them. Never use a portable generator inside space like a garage or a shed. Keep portable generators outdoors and 20 feet away from doors and windows. The National Fire Protection Association has a tip sheet for using portable generators that you can print out and keep handy.
If you have any questions about how to prepare your home’s A/C, plumbing, and electrical systems ahead of a big storm you can always call your local home services company. We’re happy to help! Air & Energy is a family-owned and operated company providing air conditioning, plumbing, electrical, and generator services to residents in Manatee County, FL for 40 years.
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