How Dust Storms Can Damage Your AC and How to Protect It

How Dust Storms Can Damage Your AC and How to Protect It

Desert dust storms look pretty impressive – especially in the movies. They whip up large clouds of dirt, dust, and clay and swirl them hundreds of miles, gathering content as they go and reaching speeds of up to 60 miles per hour.

However, Arizona dust storms make a different impression altogether when it comes to how they affect your air conditioning equipment – and it’s not a good one.

The damage

Dust storm in the Phoenix area

The debris from dust storms gets a nice shove into your air conditioning unit making the coil very…dusty. A dirty coil will reduce the unit’s performance, causing it to work harder to produce the same measure of cool air. That hard work takes energy – energy you pay for when the electric bill arrives.

And over the years, accumulation of dust can build up, caking onto the outside fan motor and causing it to work harder and eventually overheat.


Protective measures

Admittedly, most dust storms come during the hot summer months and that’s an inconvenient time to turn off your air conditioner, but it might be a good idea. Turning it off keeps the system from pulling in dust that’s already trying to push in. And besides, it protects your equipment from any power outage that might occur during a storm.

What you can do after a dust storm:

  • Change filters
  • Rinse outside unit
  • Check ducts

Changing HVAC filters after a dust storm in Phoenix

Change your filters after a dust storm

Your air filter is the first line of defense to block that dust and gets hit the hardest. It doesn’t take long for a dust storm to clog up a filter, so no air can flow through it. When this happens, your AC starts looking elsewhere for air flow like leaks in your ductwork from inside the walls and up in the attic – not places with clean, fresh air. Eventually, that lack of air flow can cause your equipment to break down completely. Because dust storms happen frequently, you need to change filters frequently. You may save money by using washable electrostatic filters instead of disposable ones.

Rinse the outside unit after a dust storm

First turn off the unit, then rinse your outside unit with a garden hose after a dust storm – especially around those little air fins. Dust can get trapped in those tiny slits, keeping them from doing their job, which is to provide a guided outlet for expelling heat.

Check your ductwork for openings

Wind can batter ducts loose, and even a very small opening can allow in big amounts of dust and debris. If you find any loose ductwork, you can screw the parts back together or tape the seam.

Other things that can be done after a dust storm:

  • Vacuum coils
  • Flush condensation line

Air conditioner at a Phoenix area home

Vacuum evaporator coils

Keeping the evaporator coil free of dirt is important for peak efficiency, but many units don’t allow access to it. If it looks dirty and you can’t get to it, have a professional clean it.

Flush the condensation line

Flushing the condensation line is a relatively easy task that takes only a few minutes, but also may require help from a professional.

Living in the desert means your air conditioner is a vital piece of equipment for your home. To make sure it’s cleaned and maintained properly, hire a licensed HVAC professional to help you.