Hurricane Season is here, and Hampton Roads’ geography makes it especially important to prepare, especially in low-lying or flood-prone areas like Norfolk and Virginia Beach. Many things come to mind when creating a hurricane safety or emergency plan — batteries, non-perishable foods, and bottled water are essential for those who plan to ride out a less severe storm. A higher category storm may call for boarding up the windows, collecting important family photos and documents, and loading the family and pets into the car to evacuate. But do you include storm-proofing your HVAC system in your hurricane plan? Here are some ways to protect your HVAC investment when you might be in the path of a hurricane.

First of all, unless you have a generator, turn off your AC or HVAC unit if you are evacuating. If you are riding out the storm, shut off your heating and cooling system if it looks like a power outage is imminent. Yes, it will get uncomfortably warm and humid, but this is an important step to prevent burning out the compressor or blowing out the circuits when electricity is restored to your home or business in Hampton Roads. It’s also an important safety measure if there is extensive flooding or storm damage and your HVAC unit needs repairs immediately after the storm. If you rely on window units for air conditioning, unplug them.

If possible, cover your exterior HVAC unit securely with a tarp or plastic sheeting. While it is not absolutely guaranteed protection for the unit, this can help to avoid damage from flying debris and facilitate the clean-up process after the storm. It can also help to keep excessive water out of the exterior unit, which could contribute to mold growth.

After a storm, wait before immediately turning your heating and cooling system back on. While you’ll understandably want to cool down your house or business, there could be electrical or structural damage to the unit. If it’s obviously been flooded or if you haven’t been able to return home for a more than a few days, there could be mold growing inside the drain pans or pipes. Get one of Hampton Roads’ HVAC professionals to inspect it before turning it back on.

If you think there could be mold in the unit or if you’ve had it turned off for an extended period of time, call an HVAC professional to get it cleaned and serviced before turning it back on so that you don’t blow mold throughout the building. And while you should definitely inspect the exterior for any obvious structural damage, a professional will also be better able to identify less visible problems — like mold. In the event of significant flooding, you may have to have your HVAC unit replaced. If you are right on the water in Virginia Beach or Norfolk, or in an area that floods frequently, you may want to find a way to elevate the exterior unit to prevent future flood damage.

While it may not be at the top of your mind during a storm, following these simple steps can help to protect the time and money you’ve invested in the HVAC system for your home or business.