The hot summer months are approaching, and for homeowners, that means pulling the air conditioner units and fans out from storage. Keeping cool in the summer heat is absolutely essential, but there are a few potential safety hazards surrounding your favorite cooling appliances that you should most definitely be aware of. To help you prepare and stay as safe as possible, we’ve compiled a list of the top six air conditioner safety tips and products to reduce the risk of injury or damage to your home.
Are window air conditioners safe? Can an air conditioner start a fire?
When operated and maintained properly, window air conditioners are perfectly safe to use in your home. But, you may be surprised to learn the statistics behind how many home fires and injuries are caused by air conditioning units and cooling equipment. According to a 2016 report by the National Fire Protection Association, window air conditioners cause an average of 20 deaths, 140 injuries, and $82 million in property damage every year.
Now, we aren’t telling you this to scare you into getting rid of your air conditioner and spending three months sweating it out in your basement. But, we want to emphasize how common these incidents are, and make sure you have the proper air conditioner safety knowledge to know how to prevent them.
Dangers of Window Air Conditioners
Typically, air conditioner and fan fires are caused by mechanical or electrical failures. This can be caused by a few different things like overuse, improper or lack of maintenance, or poor electrical wiring. Another common cause of air conditioner unit fires is from flammable objects near the unit such as paper, leaves, or gasoline.
Some of the main culprits to be aware of:
- The electrical cables of the unit
- Extension cords being used to power the units
- Overall home electrical wiring that is being shared with the unit
And, as I’m sure you’re thrilled to know, there are a few more dangers associated with window air conditioner units that we want you to keep in mind. It’s imperative that your window unit is installed properly to prevent falling. While falling AC units are a bit rare, it can cause serious injuries or even fatalities to passersby or young children in the home. Improper mounting in the window can also cause physical damage to your home, as well as potentially lead to leaking refrigerant.
Getting to know these potential dangers and being aware of them is a huge part of preventing them in itself. And, if you pay your unit proper attention and care, (and follow our trusty list of air conditioner safety tips) you’ll surely be able to spot any risks before it’s too late.
We do want to note that there are thousands of reported injuries and accidents due to people working on their units themselves without proper education or experience. The overall best thing you can do to ensure that you, your home, and your trusty air conditioner are out of harm’s way is to hire a professional to take a look at it.
Window Air Conditioner Safety Tips
1. Annual Maintenance
After long periods without use (aka being stored in the back of the garage for more than 9 months out of the year), there can be lots of dirt and dust trapped in your fan or air conditioner, or even broken or faulty wires from being transported and re-installed. This is why it’s important to maintain proper maintenance for an air conditioner with an annual tune-up by an HVAC professional before the summer season. Think of it like a yearly check-up or spa day for your precious cooling unit.
2. Install Carbon Monoxide and Smoke Detectors
Carbon monoxide and smoke inhalation can be extremely dangerous and even fatal. It’s important to have sensors or alarms installed in your home to detect things like heat and gas, especially in the hot summer months when you’re sleeping with the AC unit on. And it’s actually not a bad idea to have these installed year-round, even when the AC isn’t on. For all around motion and heat sensitive sensors for your home and driveway, check out these sensors from Guardline.
3. Avoid Using Extension Cords
HVAC professionals highly advise against using extension cords or power strips for your window AC units (along with televisions, clothes dryers, refrigerator, and freezers). It probably says this on the teeny tiny warning sign attached to the cord written in miniscule text that’s impossible to read, so we thought we’d say it here again. A standard extension cord that you can find at the drugstore can become overworked by an AC unit, causing it to overheat and potentially catch on fire. There are certain heavy-duty extension cords specifically designed to support large appliances, typically with shorter cords and lower gauges. We still recommend running this by a professional or consulting a knowledgeable employee at your local hardware store for the best air conditioner extension cord safety.
4. Remove the Cover!
Again, this air conditioner safety tip might seem a little too obvious, but we wanted to be extra clear. You should NEVER run an air conditioner with the cover on. Air conditioners need to exchange heat and condensation to run properly, so the airflow should never be cut off. This also means that air conditioner units should always have plenty of air to pull from, and should never be blocked or placed against walls, fabric, clothing, bedding etc. And while mistakenly turning your AC unit on with the cover for a brief period of time likely won’t send your house up in flames, an air conditioner that is covered for an extended period of time will cause damage not only to the unit but will likely overheat and cause damage to your home, as well.
5. Clean Your Air Filter
One of the best ways to maintain your air conditioner yourself is by checking and cleaning the air filters frequently. An AC filter removes contaminants like dust, pollution, and allergens from the air that are coming through the unit. Clogged filters in your air conditioner could be exposing you to unfiltered, polluted air blowing through your house, so be sure to clean and replace them at least every three months (perfect for the summer season).
6. Pay Attention!
As we mentioned earlier, being aware of the dangers and paying attention to changes in your air conditioning unit is already half the battle. If you notice funny sounds, smells, leaks, or wires sticking out, that’s usually a sign that something is off. Keep an eye out for changes in your unit, and if you do detect them, act sooner rather than later.
Conclusion About Air Conditioner Safety Tips
Air conditioning is essential for many homes and families during the summertime. We hope we didn’t scare you into ditching your unit completely, but we do hope these air conditioner safety tips have made you feel more educated and prepared to use your unit properly while keeping you, your family, and your home safe from any harm (especially harm that is so easily preventable). Remember to keep up proper yearly maintenance, install gas and heat sensors into your home, and pay attention to any unusual changes in your air conditioning unit.
Contributing Writer: Amanda Medved