Hurricane Recovery Essentials For Your Plumbing & HVAC Systems
In the wake of a major hurricane, there are so many considerations for proper cleanup that it can be daunting. One of the most critical components of your home is the HVAC and plumbing systems.
These include your furnace, air conditioning, and air quality appliances in your home, as well as all your plumbing fixtures and pipes. Once you know it is safe to return to your home, the first step in your hurricane recovery plan is to have a detailed inspection of the interior and exterior. On the exterior, even after the ‘all clear’ has been given, NEVER assume that a downed power line has been rendered safe and be very careful of any standing water as it may be electrified. If you ever have any concerns, contact your service provider immediately to report the potential hazard.
Once you have re-entered your home, take care when powering up any of your systems. Inspect them for any obvious damage and ensure everything is completely dry. If you have any concerns about damaged equipment or whether or not it is safe to turn the power back on, contact a licensed professional and ask them to come to conduct an inspection.
Appliances that should absolutely not be used if they have been flooded are water heaters and HVAC systems. According to the Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI), any HVAC or water heater equipment should be replaced, not repaired, if damaged by floodwaters.
Ductwork & Filters
While mold is a concern in general, for your airflow system it is a critical concern. First have the ductwork that runs through your home cleaned, if mold contamination is suspected. Then have the filters on all your HVAC appliances replaced. It is wise to replace filters annually, or more, under normal conditions, and you’ll certainly want to do this after a hurricane. Ask if these services will be included as part of any post-hurricane recovery maintenance provided.
If ductwork has been in direct contact with floodwaters, these sections should be replaced as it can be nearly impossible to thoroughly decontaminate.
Salt Water Exposure
If any of your HVAC equipment was exposed to salt water or if you suspect it may have been, HAVE IT CLEANED. These appliances are usually designed to withstand some exposure to water, but this will not protect them from the dielectric (corrosion) reaction that saltwater can cause. Have them cleaned as soon as possible to prevent this.
The drinking water in your home is protected by a highly pressurized system that is designed to prevent the flow of contaminants into the clean water supply. This system is generally controlled and monitored by your local government. Follow whatever recommendations they give for the use of this water. However, if you suspect that your household pipes have been contaminated in any way, have your plumber drain the entire system. Enquire if they provide a cleaning service, both for the pipes and your fixtures.
Faucets & Showerheads
Faucet aerators and showerheads can trap debris and contaminated materials. Remove them and clean them out or consider replacing them if your budget allows. Your stems and cartridges should be cleaned and if possible replaced. Ask your service provider if your fixture has a warranty that covers parts to help keep costs down. If not follow the manufactures recommendations for cleaning the stems and cartridges. These often have sensitive rubber or plastic parts that could be damaged by harsh cleaners such as bleach.
Your drain pipes are designed to contain and remove waste from your home. Therefore, this system being contaminated is the least of your concerns when conducting hurricane recovery maintenance. It is possible to be a source of contamination from flooding; however, if this system has a good backflow preventer installed, contamination is unlikely.
Have your drain system inspected as part of your recovery to make sure everything is still working properly. Damage may have occurred or debris may have gotten sucked in. Your main drain should also be cleaned annually and now is a good time to do it. Technicians have special cameras that are fed into your drain. Ask them to inspect the backflow preventer — this will help prevent damage from future flooding. If you do not have backflow preventers, request a quote for installation.
Large storms are very demanding on sump pumps; include this often forgotten appliance in your hurricane recovery inspections. Smaller motors, such as 1/4 and 1/3 horsepower can easily burn out. If yours needs replacing, a 1/2 hp might be a better option for you. Also look into getting a backup sump pump, either electric or water-powered, since your primary sump runs off of your house’s electrical system. Have the discharge pipe tied into the drain system for your home — this will ensure the water is pumped far enough from your home that it isn’t re-entering the sump and causing the pump to continually stay on.
Help & Additional Resources
Help is always needed in the event of disasters. The American Red Cross works to provide care for those in need. Please consider donating to the Red Cross to assist in the recovery efforts of hurricanes and other disasters.
Looking for additional hurricane help & recovery resources? Houzz.com has put together a reference site to answer questions on rebuilding, volunteering & more.
Our goal is to help educate our customers in Wilmington, Delaware and surrounding areas about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC & plumbing systems).
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