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Is It Safe to Use My Plumbing or HVAC System During a Thunderstorm?

If you’ve ever lived in Florida, a.k.a. the lightning capital of the U.S., you’ve probably been warned against using your home’s AC, heater, or plumbing during a thunderstorm--but does this advice have any grounding in scientific fact? Do you risk electrocution by taking a shower when there’s lightning outside? Can a lightning strike ruin your HVAC system?

We will answer these questions below and provide some insight to help keep you and your property safe during stormy weather.

Is It Safe to Run My AC or Heater During a Thunderstorm?

It depends on what you mean by “safe.” If you run your HVAC equipment during a thunderstorm, this will not put your safety at risk. However, you would run the risk of ruining your HVAC equipment on the off-chance that lightning strikes near your home.

Power Surges and HVAC Equipment

It’s highly unlikely that lightning would ever directly strike your equipment (like your AC’s condenser), although such a thing is not impossible. Power surges are a much more possible threat to your HVAC system. If lightning strikes your home or close by, a power surge can occur.

Unless you own a whole-house surge protector, a power surge can send an enormous peak in voltage through your home’s wiring and outlets. This spike happens so fast that any running equipment or appliances can be damaged extensively before your circuit breaker has a chance to trip. In some cases, your AC might only need a new control panel. If you’re not so lucky, your AC might need a new compressor, which is one of the priciest parts to replace.

Is It Safe to Use My Home’s Plumbing During a Thunderstorm?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you should stay out of your shower and away from other parts of your home’s plumbing during a thunderstorm. (Finally, you have a legitimate reason to put off washing the dishes!) But what is the reason for this safety advice?

Lightning and Indoor Plumbing

Your home’s plumbing contains a lot of metal and water--two materials that conduct electricity like nobody’s business. If lightning strikes your house, the electric current usually travels through the wires or the plumbing in the walls. If it goes through the pipes to a faucet you’re using, you could receive a harmful shock.

In Conclusion

While it isn’t necessarily unsafe to use your HVAC system during a thunderstorm, you do run the risk of an unexpected power surge damaging the equipment. Conversely, it is dangerous to use your home’s plumbing fixtures and equipment during a thunderstorm.

In need of an air conditioning or heating repair in Orlando? Contact ServiceOne Air Conditioning & Plumbing online or call us at (407) 439-2144.

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