When there's been a wildfire near your home or a small fire indoors, keep in mind that your HVAC system may have been affected even if the flames didn't reach the unit. If your AC is running on a hot day, it will pull in smoke and soot from the fire. These things are acidic and can shorten the life of your AC unless you have the unit cleaned and repaired promptly. Here are actions that may be necessary when your air conditioner has been exposed to fire, soot, and smoke.
Cleaning the Condenser
If the condenser was exposed to smoke for a prolonged time, you should have the AC checked out by a repair service to make sure the parts weren't damaged. At the least, the unit will probably need to be cleaned thoroughly and tested for problems. If smoke and soot aren't cleaned out, the soot might clog the system, and the acidic nature of smoke and soot might cause damage to parts and cause your AC to break down at some point in the future.
Replacing Melted Parts
If your AC was also exposed to flames or intense heat, even for a short time, it may be necessary to replace damaged or melted parts. While many of the parts of a condenser are metal, there are some rubber and sensitive electronic components that can be damaged and need to be replaced after a brush with a fire. If flames engulfed your AC, then repairs may not be possible. You may need to replace the condenser and decide if you'll update your entire HVAC at the same time.
Cleaning the Ducts and Air Handler
An indoor fire is an even bigger concern since a large part of your AC is indoors. Even a small fire that's extinguished early can damage your AC air handler since smoke gets pulled into the unit. The filter blocks some of the debris from a fire, but tiny particles will still make their way inside the air handler and ducts. Just like dust causes problems with an HVAC, soot and fallout from smoke can do the same thing and lead to problems with your AC malfunctioning. Even worse, the unit and ducts hold on to odors so every time your AC runs, the smoke odor will get recirculated through your home.
A thorough cleaning of the system can prevent these problems. This includes cleaning the blower and coils to get rid of soot that may keep your AC from cooling the air or lead to the deterioration of sensitive parts. Duct cleaning and deodorizing may be necessary too. It's best to turn off your AC when your home fills with smoke so you can keep as much smoke and soot out of your home as possible, but there will still be some contamination of your system. An AC repair service will evaluate your situation and determine the repairs needed so your HVAC won't suffer long-term damage from the incident.