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Should You Turn Off an AC When the Power Goes Out?

Should You Turn Off an AC When the Power Goes Out?

Storms, weather disturbances, and accidents can and often do lead to blackouts. The most important thing you can do in that situation is not to panic and stay calm and collected. What you need is the presence of mind to take some precautionary measures.

You should turn off the AC and other electrical appliances when the power goes out. It will protect your AC from the voltage surge that may happen when electricity is restored. It will also help reduce demand on the electrical system, which in turn may help hasten restoration. 

Here’s everything you need to know about why it’s best to turn your AC off after an outage (source).

Why You Need To Turn Off Your AC During a Power Outage

As mentioned, turning your AC off will protect it from power surges once the electricity comes back.

A power surge occurs when the voltage goes beyond 169 volts. Usually, the wall outlet only delivers 120 volts of power. 

Power surges occur when:

  • The electric company switches the power grid
  • There’s a malfunction in the transmission line or transformer
  • There’s a lightning strike

Smaller power surges can also occur when you turn an appliance on or off. The motor or compressor will require extra energy, which disturbs the steady voltage flow in the system. 

Apart from power surge protection, turning off your AC (and other appliances) will help hasten restoration. The electrical company will find it easier to turn the power back on if there’s no heavy load or demand on the system (source).

The Damaging Effects of a Power Surge

As established, leaving the AC on will put it at risk for a damaging power surge. 

If this occurs, you may notice issues such as: 

  • The AC not working after shutting off automatically
  • Burnt, acrid odors coming from the appliance
  • Flashing lights (or clocks)
  • A problem with the power strip that’ll require you to reset it

These are common indicators that your AC has suffered a power surge, but they’re not the worst things that can happen. In some cases, the power surge may destroy your AC or even start an electrical fire! (source

What To Do After an Outage

Once you have turned off your AC and other appliances, it’s time to do some detective work. Here are the steps you should take:

  1. First, look at your neighbors’ homes. If their lights are on, then the problem is inside your home and isn’t widespread. 
  2. Go to your power box and check the main fuse or circuit breaker. Sometimes, all you need to do is to replace the fuse or reset the breaker. 
  3. If there are no lights throughout the neighborhood, call the electric company. That way, they could send a maintenance specialist to fix the issues right away. 
  4. Should the outage become an extended one, you must unplug everything. It’s also best to remove the fuse or turn off the breakers. Leave only one circuit on so you know once the power gets restored. 
  5. Keep calm and find some entertaining, non-electronic things to do. If the outage is widespread, you could be waiting a while.

What To Do Once the Power Is Restored

You may feel the immediate need to turn on your AC and other electrical appliances once power is restored. 

However, you mustn’t do so right away. Wait for a few minutes before turning them back on. This action will help minimize the demand that’s straining the electrical power system. Additionally, it will give the system more time to ‘stabilize.’ 

If you have turned the power off through the main power switch, make sure all the appliances remain unplugged before you turn it on. Again, this will protect your AC – among other appliances – from a damaging power surge. 

How To Reset Your AC After a Power Outage

Say you’ve waited a few minutes before turning on your AC. If it fails to come back to life after a few tries, then you may need to reset it. Here’s how: 

  1. Turn the AC off using a thermostat. This part tells your AC to cool your home. Turning it off should help reset the system.
  2. Turn off the AC circuit breaker. If the thermostat trick doesn’t work, find the breaker that operates your HVAC system. Turn it off, then turn it back on again. It should help reset and run your AC.

Remember: Wait for at least 30 minutes before you manipulate your AC’s thermostat. You need to give your AC some time to ‘reset.’ 

If your AC still fails to turn on after this trick, then you may want to call an HVAC technician (source).

Installing a Surge Protector

If you live in an area where power outages are common, it will help to install a surge protector. As the name suggests, it can defend your appliances from the damaging effects of a power surge.

You can choose from any of these three types of surge protectors:

  1. Whole-house surge suppressor. Also known as the panel-mounted surge suppressor, it’s something you install directly to the fuse box. It works to protect your circuits from surges coming from the source itself. Depending on the capacity, this suppressor may cost you anywhere from $50 to hundreds of dollars. 
  2. Power strips with surge protection. This model is often seen in homes, which makes it very affordable. It’s essential to choose a rating according to the appliances in your home. For your AC, the recommended rating is 1000 to 2000 joules. 
  3. Transient voltage surge suppressors. This device offers the best amount of protection since it’s wired directly to the outlet box. It comes with an alarm/light that will blink in the event of a power surge. 

Bottom Line

It’s crucial to turn off your AC – and other electrical appliances – in case of a power outage.

Doing so will protect your AC from a surge, which may end up destroying the unit. Worse, this surge may even start a fire.

Turning off your AC will also speed up power restoration. This act will help ease the demand on an overburdened electrical system.

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