Hail is a marvel of nature – hail can range in size from a pea to a baseball (or larger) and, being made of ice, it can leave a mark. The National Weather Service reports that hail causes $1 billion in damage to property and crops each year. Anything caught outside in a hail storm is vulnerable to the smashing and flattening caused by hail – and that includes your air conditioning unit.
The most common problem caused by hail damage to air conditioners is warping or smashing of condenser coil fins. When these fins are flattened, air flow gets restricted and this inhibits the equipment’s ability to transfer heat from inside the house to outside. As a result, your unit has to work harder to produce less. Inefficient operation consumes extra energy, costs extra money and eventually shortens the life of your system, requiring early replacement.
Degrees of hail damage
How you should respond depends on the amount of damage your equipment sustained. Hail can make a direct impact or bounce up from the ground nearby to cause indentations, or flattening, to the surface fins of your condenser coil.
- Minor damage
If indentations to your condenser coil are few and shallow, they can be straightened out fairly easily to restore air flow. Fin combs are tools with plastic or metal ‘teeth’ like a comb that fit between aluminum slats – but it’s best to have a qualified technician do this job.
- Moderate damage
It’s considered moderate level damage when the fins are bent more than ⅛ inch deep and/or cover up to 30 percent of the surface area. This amount of repair requires considerably more time per square foot to ‘comb out’ the fins properly.
If the damaged area has indentations that measure ¼ inch to ⅜ inch deep and extend over 30 percent or more of the surface area, this is severe enough to cause equipment failure down the line if it’s not properly addressed. At this level of damage to the coils, there is also likely damage to the refrigerant tubing in the coil. It’s a good idea to have an HVAC professional advise you whether it’s better to try and repair or replace the condenser coil.
Hail damage to any property is likely covered under a homeowner’s insurance policy. It’s a good idea to check with your agent to see what kind of coverage your policy offers.