Hail Storms & Air Conditioners – They are not friends!

A significant hail storm just came through your neighborhood and beat up the condenser coil on your air conditioner or heat pump and flattened the fins. What does this mean?

First let’s understand that with an air conditioner the condenser coil releases heat to the outdoor air that has been removed from inside your house. For a heat pump, during the heating season, the coil picks up heat from outdoor air and transfers it inside the house. To perform these functions, the coil must have the ability to have the appropriate air move through it.

Coil fins that are flattened because they have been struck by hail reduce the amount of air that can move through the coil and therefore reduces the amount of heat transfer to or from the inside of the house. This means that the unit may not be able to cool or heat your house to your satisfaction, even though it is still the correct size unit to do so. It also means the unit will use more energy and reduces efficiency which raises your electric bill and it means it can shorten the life of the unit because of the added strain on other critical components.

Many people will have their flattened coils fin combed out to try and straighten them the best they can. This answer is better than doing nothing but will not get your unit back to the manufacturers specifications of the coil. How much will the performance, energy consumption and life of the unit be affected? I have not been able to find documentation that defines this. Some manufacturers use Enhanced Coil Technology that make it nearly impossible to straighten the stamped slots of the coil.

The other part of this equation is how a unit that is still under the manufacturer’s warranty will be affected. Hail or any type of outside damage to the unit or condenser coil is not covered by the manufacturer’s warranty. Manufacturers also will not cover a part, like a compressor, that fails because of damage to the coil under warranty either.

Many questions need to be answered when your air conditioner and hail collide. Do you have the fins combed out or straightened out and get the unit back to something better than before the hail? Do you have the condenser coil replaced? Do you have the entire air conditioning unit replaced?

The best answer is to work with your trusted heating and cooling company and your homeowner’s insurance company to get to the best resolution for you and your home.

Paul Harms
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