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HVAC by the Sea: How Saltwater Affects the Performance and Life of Your HVAC System

Living near the coast comes with benefits. Our kids grow up taking day trips to the beach, we have access to some of the freshest seafood, and the sea breeze provides much needed relief on sweltering summer days. However, all of that salty air can wreak havoc on our HVAC systems. Left unchecked, salt accumulation on HVAC equipment can shut parts down and significantly reduce the lifespan of your unit. Beachfront homes are particularly susceptible to damage, but HVAC units throughout the Lowcountry will feel the effects of the sea air as well.

hvac units on the beach

How Saltwater Affects Your HVAC System

Corrosion

We live in an area where the average relative humidity is above 65% at all times of the year. When you combine that humidity with our proximity to the ocean, the result is air with significant salt content circulating around our coastal homes. Over time, that salt accumulates on our HVAC units, forming a thin layer on the metal.

The salt by itself is not the main issue. The real problems begin when the salt combines with water and the mixture begins corroding the metal of your outdoor air conditioning unit. Copper, steel, and aluminum components of your AC unit will all be detrimentally affected by sea air; when damaged, the efficiency of your system suffers.

Lifespan

AC systems in less humid areas away from the ocean will typically last between 15 and 20 years. This estimate varies by the exact conditions and the kind of unit you have, but it is a good baseline. Those same HVAC units’ lifespan can be cut short by years in hot, humid, and salty conditions.

What You Can Do About It

Selecting the Right Unit

If you are choosing a new HVAC unit, invest in one that is built with coastal homes in mind. These units typically have fewer areas for corrosion and minimal soldering points (which are potential places for leaks).

Our team at AGL has been running a saltwater experiment for the past five years to determine which brands perform best in our area and the frontrunner is Trane. You can read more about our HVAC saltwater experiment in this post to see why we recommend Trane units.

three air conditioning units used for the saltwater experiment conducted by agl services

Proper Installation

Once you have selected the unit you wish to purchase, proper installation is vital. Trained professionals will be able to determine the best location for the outdoor unit’s installation; they will try to select a place that is protected from the ocean winds and open to cleansing rainwater.

Regular Maintenance

For new and old HVAC units alike, regular maintenance is essential for maximizing the life of your system. Light home maintenance, such as wiping down coils with freshwater (to get rid of the salt film), can help prevent or slow corrosion.

If you are thinking about investing in a coastal HVAC unit or need help maintaining your existing one, contact us. Our HVAC professionals will provide you with a fair quote for our installation, repair, and maintenance services.