Now that we’ve made it through another winter, it’s time to turn our focus to spring weather patterns and the claims that often result from this change of season. One
of the most prevalent causes of loss this
time of year is damage due to hailstorms.
Hail causes billions of dollars of damage
each year, and can have a significant impact
on HVAC systems. Whether on the roof or
on the ground, portions of both residential
and commercial HVAC systems are located outside, and are therefore in the direct
“line of fire” during a hailstorm event.
Hail can be especially troublesome when
it comes to large commercial properties,
which often include dozens (if not hundreds) of rooftop units. According to HVA-Ci’s 2017 Annual Claims Report, 84 percent
of large loss claims (those with claimed
HVAC damage totaling over $100,000) were
submitted for hail damage and resulted in
an average claimed amount of $343,243 per
claim. The financial significance of these
claims (whether commercial or residential)
underscores the importance of knowing
what to look for when handling hail claims.
Traditional condenser coil
The HVAC component most susceptible to hail damage is the condenser
coil, which facilitates the transfer of heat
from the refrigerant to the outside air.
Traditional tube and fin coils (the most
common variety) comprise two material
layers. The inner layer consists of a tube,
typically constructed of copper (but occasionally made of aluminum). The outer
layer of the coil is covered with soft aluminum “fins,” commonly layered in vertical strips, which are exposed to the outer
walls of a condensing/packaged unit, and
thus, vulnerable to a potential hail event.
The condenser coil plays a critical role
in the HVAC/refrigeration cycle. The com-
pressor pumps hot gas refrigerant through
the condenser coil, as a fan at the top of
the unit pulls ambient air through the
fins of the coil. As this air passes through
the aluminum fins, the heat is transferred
from the refrigerant to the passing air, and
is ejected out of the top of the system.
The coil’s fins are constructed out of thin
aluminum to provide a large surface area
to conduct the heat transfer in an efficient
manner. However, this thin aluminum is
easily malleable, allowing it to be bent and
dented when impacted by objects such as
hail. If the fins are flattened by hail (or by
some other foreign object), airflow through
the condenser coil can be reduced, and may
affect the ability of the coil to transfer heat.
Without sufficient protection, these
traditional tube and fin coils are highly
susceptible to hail damage, but not every
hail event requires full system replacement. If the soft fins are merely dented
and not torn, it is likely that careful use of
a fin-combing tool can rectify the damage
and restore the system to pre-loss condition. If the fins are torn by the damage,
however, the condenser coil cannot likely
Hail Damage to HVAC
Rooftop packaged unit on a with major hail
damage to the condenser coil. Non-damaged microchannel coil submitted
for hail damage, claimed alongside hail-
damaged tube and fin coils.
Microchannel coil with minor hail
damage that required coil replacement
due to inability to comb out damaged
Condenser coil damaged by a weed eater,
claimed as hail.