How AC Systems Handle Dust Storms

Arizona is a land of unfiltered beauty, but it’s also home to some rather unique weather patterns.  For example, during the summer, we experience the Arizona Monsoon, a terrifying combination of high winds, strong thunderstorms and dust clouds that can reach thousands of feet in height.  New Arizona residents (and even those who have been here for a while) often call us right after a monsoon with questions about how the dust storm could have affected their air conditioner.

If you’ve been wondering how well your air conditioner is handling the dust storms, the good news is that they aren’t usually bothered much — after all, your air conditioner is designed to function in an outdoor setting through storms, heat and wind.  Because outdoor air conditioner components are closed systems, there’s no risk of dust making its way inside your equipment, so any dust you find inside your home was probably blown in through cracks between windows, trimwork and doors. (No matter how well your home is sealed, those tiny dust particles can find their way indoors.)

Even though your air conditioner can handle the isolated dust storm, there are some maintenance items you should tend to between storms to keep it running at peak efficiency, including:

  • Changing your filters.  Dust storms are notorious for plugging filters until there’s no airflow left.  Without proper airflow, your air conditioner can’t take in room air to cool, and it ceases to function properly.  If plugged filters are left in place, eventually they can cause your air conditioner to break down completely.  Always replace your filters after a dust storm, even if only a small amount of dust was blown into your home.  Because dust storms are frequent during an Arizona summer, replacing your disposable filter with a washable electrostatic filter can save a lot of money in a short period of time.
  • Cleaning your outside unit.  Although your outdoor unit can handle a dust storm, you’ll keep it running at its best if you give it a good bath after the dust settles. With the power to your equipment turned off, rinse your air conditioner with a garden hose, paying special attention to the tiny fins that surround the unit.  These little fins help the outdoor unit expel heat from the refrigerant in the system. When dust gets trapped between them, it can interfere with this process.  A thorough wash dislodges dust and increases the airflow to your unit.
  • Checking your ducts.  Depending on how hard the wind blew, your ducts may have worked themselves loose.  Even a tiny opening in your ductwork is too big, checking them after dust storms is important to maintaining your indoor air quality.  Seal any open ducts you find by either screwing them back together or taping the seam — if ducts are hanging, make sure you tie them back up to reduce the pressure on their connections.
  • Flushing the condensation line.  Depending on where your air handler is located, flushing your condensation line may be optional, but it only takes a few minutes.  Like everything else in your home, however, the condensation line can get clogged with dust during a storm.  It’s easy to flush — simply remove the line from your air conditioner and run bleach water through it until it drains out.  In Arizona, it’s useful to have a clean-out installed on lines that aren’t designed to pull off easily.
  • Vacuuming the evaporator coil.  Many air handlers are designed to prevent homeowner access to the evaporator coil, but if you can get to yours, check it for dust accumulation while you’re flushing the condensation line.  Keeping this coil free of dust and debris ensures that your air conditioner runs at peak efficiency. If it looks dirty, clean it or call a professional to have it checked.

Your air conditioner is a vital piece of equipment for desert life, so make sure you take good care of it right after a dust storm to keep it running strong.  If you’re unable to service your unit because it’s hard to reach or you’d rather have a professional air conditioner technician handle your maintenance, give Precision Air a call at 1-602-349-6922.  We have a great Monsoon tune-up package starting at $159.95 that includes a check-up and cleaning of your air conditioning system, and we’re ready to take your call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Precision Air & Plumbing October 16, 2017


We want to help you learn about about all things air conditioning and heating! Have any questions or want to see us write about something? Give us a call, chat, or email and we'll do our best to help you out.