be restored through combing, and the coil
(if available) would require replacement.
Microchannel condenser coils
An increasingly popular alternative to
the tube and fin coil is the microchannel
condenser coil. This newer, more efficient
design is constructed entirely out of aluminum, and uses a single layer construction. With this type of coil, refrigerant
flows through flat tubes containing small
refrigerant channels, while angled and
louvered fins between the tubes (rather
than around) facilitate heat transfer.
The rigid construction of these coils
makes them less susceptible to minor
hail damage, but also makes them more
difficult to repair, should the damage be
severe enough to bend the fins. And unlike traditional coils, microchannel coils
cannot be combed, and would generally
require replacement under comparable
What to look for when assessing
hail damage claims
Determining the scope of repairs required
to return an insured to pre-loss condition
is just one part of the hail claim equation. The critical question (particularly
for large loss hail claims) is this: Are all
of the systems in fact damaged? In 2016,
19 percent of systems with claimed hail
damage were found to be non-damaged
after an independent onsite assessment.
Once system damage has been confirmed, adjusters must also determine
whether the condenser coil was in fact
damaged by hail, and if so, what repair
action is required to return the system
back to pre-loss condition.
Other causes of loss disguised
as hail damage
Although hail is a commonly reported
cause of loss, field investigations often reveal
other sources of damage to condenser coils.
Statistics show that nearly three out of 10
systems with claimed hail damage in 2016
were actually damaged by some other cause,
and in many cases by another foreign object.
One common cause of loss for ground-mounted HVAC systems is impact from
landscaping equipment, such as lawn mowers and weed eaters. This type of damage is
typically located near the bottom of the condenser coil and occurs in a linear, horizontal
pattern. Another common type of foreign
object distinguishable from hail is damage from pressure washing the condenser
coils (improper maintenance). In this loss
scenario, a significant portion of the surface area of the coil is flattened, usually in
a wide-streaked, vertical pattern. Another
common source of damage comes from direct human contact due to system installation, roof maintenance or vandalism.
System damage prevention
Hail damage to an HVAC system’s con-
denser coil can be prevented. Hail guards,
which can be factory-configured or in-
stalled via aftermarket distributors, pro-
vide a protective layer over the easily-dam-
aged aluminum fins, with minimal impact
to the system’s efficiency. And while hail
guards certainly increase the overall cost
of an HVAC system, the return is usually
well worth the avoidance of thousands of
dollars in settlement expense that accom-
pany hail (or other foreign object) damage.
Hail poses a real and ever-present
threat to insureds’ HVAC systems. Insurance professionals would be wise to educate themselves on the trademark signs
of hail damage, and learn how to distinguish hail from other causes of loss. It’s a
Matt Livingston is the director of customer
education for HVAC Investigators (educa-
email@example.com), a leader in independent
assessments of HVAC and Refrigeration
claims for insurance carriers. He is responsible for providing continuing education to insurance professionals on various
heating and air conditioning topics and is
also responsible for development of field
diagnosis best practices. He is a frequent
author and speaker on this topic, and
holds an EPA 608 Universal Certification.
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Condenser coil damaged when improperly
cleaned with a pressure washer.
Condensing unit with hail guards that
protected the condenser coil from damage.