Water got into my house, do I need to call an HVAC technician?
Our thoughts and prayers go out to those who have been affected by the recent flooding in West Virginia. Floods are the #1 disaster in the United States claiming hundreds of lives each year. From 2005 to 2014, total flood insurance claims averaged more than $3.5 billion per year.
I’ve had very little experience with severe flooding. My wife, on the other hand, grew up in Wyoming Valley, Pennsylvania while Hurricane Agnes came through that region in 1972, and when I told her I was writing a post about flooding and HVAC damage she could relate. Upon her family’s return to their home, she remembers the water had made it past the second floor of the house and there was very little they were able to salvage. It was devastating and something she will never forget
We do occasionally get heavy rains where we live on the north shore of Massachusetts and when those flood rains come I can expect at least 2 or 3 inches of water which I inevitably have to wade through to get to the sump pump that doesn’t always seem to start automatically. So far, we’ve been lucky and haven’t experienced any real damage, but even a few inches of water means that I need to do some basic troubleshooting.
Joe Leonard, an expert in all things HVAC, helped provide a checklist for HVAC systems after water enters the house. Joe leads product development for Allied Air Industries, the sponsor of this blog.
1. If your house was in a flood and you know the HVAC system was in any way submerged do not turn on the heat or air conditioning. Call an HVAC technician immediately and have them come out as soon as possible to inspect your unit.
2. If your basement or lower level floor received water damage but you’re not sure if the water got into your HVAC unit it’s important to inspect each element of the unit to assess possible damage. HVAC systems are spread out across your house. For central air there are two main components to check: (1) outside the house is the compressor and (2) inside the house or in the crawl space under the house is the air handler/blower. For many people it will be easy to determine if the compressor unit outside the house was under water. The air handler/blower can be more difficult, and if you are unable to get close and view the unit, it’s best to assume that it was underwater. For heating make sure to inspect the boiler, furnace, and blower. Last on the list are air ducts and vents. If you believe water has reached any of these items do not turn on your heat or AC and call an HVAC technician to inspect the unit.
3. Even if you do not believe water reached your HVAC system. Joe recommends that a technician come out to inspect your unit and service it - some of the parts will need tightening and to be replaced regardless (think of your car and the check-up to change filters and inspect for potential problems). If you have a service contract, consider moving your next appointment up. Even though you do not think water damage is a problem a good technician can do a more thorough assessment.
Having dealt with minor flooding while living on a tight budget, I understand the potential reluctance to involve a technician, especially if the system turns on and seems to work properly. However, the old adage of “penny wise, pound foolish” applies here. Water from floods can cause the electrical components to erode quickly and cause expensive damage in future months versus a less expensive clean up. Another consideration is mold and mildew. Waters from floods and rain contain microbes that can lead to mold in your system and ductwork. This can be a major problem for the air quality of your house and ongoing respiratory health.
Hopefully you have a trusted HVAC technician, but if not we have a list of technicians we recommend in the Find Help tab above.
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