How Heat and Summer Storms Affect Your Appliances

heat affects appliances

Some surprising ways to protect your appliances when it’s hot and humid.

The heat is on — and this summer weather can have a big impact on your appliances. Extreme heat, summer storms and power outages can damage appliances, which often work harder and longer during the summer months. But there are steps you can take to protect them and prevent a potential appliance repair.

Fridge and Freezer: These appliances are the most vulnerable to the summer heat, especially if you put them in a hot location, says Gary Basham, refrigeration technical author for Sears in Austin, Texas. “We have folks in Texas who’ll keep a fridge in their shed, where it can get up to 120º to 130º in the summer,” he says. That forces the appliance to run much hotter and longer to maintain optimal temperatures, which in turn wears out parts a lot faster.

Instead, put your fridge somewhere cool, and maintain a few inches of clearance all the way around it so the equipment has space to put off heat.

You should also clean your condenser coil frequently, Basham says. “If that coil gets dirty, it will cause the compressor to run hotter and longer and can eventually damage it.”

Check your owner’s manual to see where the coils can be found — sometimes they’re behind the kickplate; on other models they’re on the back of the fridge.

Finally, it may sound contradictory, but when it’s hot and humid outside, turn off the power saver on your refrigerator. When this feature is on, it shuts off the heaters that dry up moisture. “When it’s humid, condensation will quickly build up, which makes the door sweat and can cause your gaskets to grow mildew,” Basham says.

Air Conditioner: If you’re out, leave your thermostat at a reasonable temperature so when you arrive home, the time it takes for the system to cool the home down to your level of comfort is much shorter. Setting the thermostat to 78º while you’re not at home will save you the most money on your monthly energy bills, according to the U.S. Department of Energy standards on energy saving.

“If you have a programmable thermostat, read over the owner’s manual and set the times and temperatures to your level of comfort,” suggests Andrew Daniels, HVAC technical author with Sears in Austin, Texas.

When the outdoor temperature is higher than normal, some AC units will have a hard time keeping up with the cooling demand — especially older systems. When your AC stops cooling or seems to be cooling less than before, Daniels says to try this quick air conditioning maintenance checkup:

• Replace all return air filters. Most need to be replaced every 30 days.

• Check the cleanliness of the outdoor air conditioner coil. Grass, dirt and debris can clog it, severely reducing its efficiency and ability to cool your home.

• Turn the power off at the breaker or disconnect.

• Attach a spray nozzle to a garden hose and set it to a medium pressure (“jet” is not an appropriate setting).

• With the nozzle pointed close to the coil, spray in an up and down motion, aiming between the fins. Do this for the entire coil.

• Allow the outdoor unit to dry completely before restoring power to the unit.

• Try once again to cool the home.

“If the indoor coil frosts or ices over, or if ice is found on the outdoor copper lines, shut the system down immediately and do not attempt to run it in cooling,” Daniels says. “Raising the temperature of the thermostat may cause further damage. This needs to be checked out by a technician ASAP. Never turn on the heat to speed up the process as this will cause the ice to thaw rapidly, resulting in a flood of water to leak out of the unit onto the floors, walls or ceilings.”

With outdoor air conditioning units, be sure to keep grass and plants trimmed around them. To maintain proper operation and optimal efficiency, no objects, such as decorative or privacy fences, plants or bushes, may be within 12 inches of the outdoor coil. That area is critical for proper airflow.

“Restricting the airflow may cause the compressor to overheat,” according to Daniels. “Repeated overheating of the compressor will eventually cause it to become inoperable as well as lead to several other major failures, which can cause an expensive repair bill.”

Power Outages and Brownouts: Summer storms and heat waves often cause fluctuations in power. If the power does go out, contact your electrical provider. If you know a storm is coming, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends moving perishables to the freezer, where the temperature is likely to stay cooler. The items in your freezer should be good for 24 to 48 hours, according to the USDA. Just don’t open the door.

And even if the neighbors have power but you don’t, skip the extra-long extension cords, unless they are heavy-duty.

“Appliances have to work a lot harder to pull energy through an extension cord, which isn’t good for the equipment,” Basham says.

And if you are in brownout conditions, or the power is flickering, unplug every appliance in the house, he adds. “When voltage is reduced in a brownout, it makes your appliances draw excess power, which can burn the equipment out really fast. Brownouts are actually worse on your appliances than power outages,” Basham states.

If you experience issues with your appliances this summer, call the Sears Appliance Experts for a repair. Our team of experts will fix most major brands, no matter where you bought it.