Hailstorms are not common in Florida, but they do happen from time to time. Because the climate is generally more on the hot and humid side, hail often melts before it reaches the ground. Still there have been several reported events of hail in Florida accumulating over 3 inches. And where there’s hail, there’s the possibility of hail damage.
The part of your AC most vulnerable to hail damage
Your condenser unit is most likely to suffer if there’s hail. This is the equipment that takes air from the interior, runs it over refrigerated coils to cool it, then blows it back inside. It includes a condenser coil, refrigerant tubes, a compressor, a fan, and fins on the metal housing.
If hail directly hits or bounces into the side of the unit, it can flatten the fins. These are thin and flexible metal slats that direct the flow of the air. It doesn’t take much to smash them down — and where you see fins smashed down, you see where air flow is being restricted. Less air gets pulled from the inside and released outside. This causes your unit to work harder for less cooling result.
If hail is large or hit hard enough, it can do damage to the coil inside, or bend and crack a fan blade. Dinging a fan blade may cause it only to wobble, but that will eventually lead to greater damage because it affects the fan’s capacity to blow. If a fan blade is actually cracked off, it could lead to a shut-down of the whole unit.
Any damage at all is going to shorten the life of your equipment by forcing it to work harder. And often, the damage to one thing leads to the damage of others.
What to do if you see damage
If you find yourself with hail damage after a severe storm and see damage to the fins of your AC unit, you can have those flattened areas ‘combed’ out with a special tool called a fin comb. Fin combs have thin plastic or metal ‘teeth’ that fit between the aluminum slats. It’s best to have a qualified technician do this job.
If your condenser is more severely damaged, it may need to be replaced; damage as slight as 10 percent can negatively impact your system. Since you might not be able to see damage done to the interior, it’s best to contact an HVAC professional to inspect your air conditioning unit.