Flood Safety Information for Home Heating and Cooling Systems
After a flood or storm surge, homeowners are advised to take important safety precautions with regard to their home’s heating and cooling systems. A house or basement exposed to standing water can damage your home’s water heater, furnace, boiler and air conditioning, ventilation and heat pump system.
If you have a central air-forced furnace, pay attention to the ductwork. A qualified heating contractor will not try to salvage duct insulation that has been in contact with flood water because it is impossible to decontaminate. Doing a thorough job may require disassembling the ductwork and gives your contractor the opportunity to seal joints and improve insulation to reduce heat loss.
Gas Furnaces and Boilers
If there is any question whether flood water has reached a gas appliance, have the unit checked by your local dealer. Natural gas furnaces, space heaters and boilers all have gas valves and controls that are especially vulnerable to water damage and may not be easy to detect. Corrosion begins inside the valves and controls and can result in reliability problems.
Use extreme caution where there is potential for propane leaks and get propane equipment checked, repaired and/or replaced by a qualified professional as quickly as possible after a flood. Propane systems also require attention to their gas pressure regulator. Debris left by flood waters can plug this causing dangerous malfunction or corrosion.
Heat Pumps and Air Conditioning Systems
Split air conditioning and heat pump systems have power and control wiring between the indoor and outdoor parts of the system and piping that moves the refrigerant. If flood water has repositioned either the indoor or outdoor units of a split system, there is the potential for a breached refrigerant system.
If the refrigerant system remains intact after the flood, the entire system should be cleaned, dried and disinfected. Have a qualified heating and cooling contractor check all electrical and refrigeration connections for both indoor and outdoor units.
Water Heating Systems
If your water heater was exposed to flood water (gas-fired, oil-fired or electric models), consider replacing the unit. Valves and controls will likely corrode and insulation surrounding the unit will be contaminated and nearly impossible to disinfect.
Replace or Repair?
Flood-damaged heating and cooling equipment and systems should be replaced and not repaired, according to AHRI. All inspection and replacement work on flooded equipment should be performed by qualified heating and cooling contractors. Turn misfortune into opportunity by considering new, energy-efficient models that will lower your future energy bills. Also, ask about local utility and federal rebates available for new energy-efficient gas or propane appliances.
Be sure to contact your local dealer if you have any questions or notice problems with any of your HVAC units.