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Repairing or Replacing Your HVAC System After a Flood

Here in Raleigh, North Carolina we are way too familiar with hurricanes and other storms that cause flooding. It seems like at least once a year Crabtree Valley Mall is flooded and people are paddling around in kayaks and canoes at the mall. While this makes for great TV and Internet memes, it also causes a lot of damage to homes in and around the Triangle.

Preventing Storm and Flood Damage

The best way to avoid costly repairs or replacement of your HVAC system is to properly prepare for a storm. HVAC systems can be damaged in storms 3 ways:

  1. Lightning/Power Surges — Most HVAC systems are not protected at all from power surges due to lightning or other reasons. Your HVAC contractor or electrical utility probably has surge protection options for your system. However, if you know a storm is coming, one way to provide some protection for your HVAC system is to cut the breakers to both the indoor and outdoor units. In some homes both breakers will be in the garage. In others, the breaker for the indoor unit may be in the garage but the outdoor unit may need to be shut off by pulling the disconnect or breaker in a panel near the unit.
  2. Physical Damage — You may not be able to totally protect your HVAC system from physical damage, but you can reduce your chances of sustaining damage. Before the storm make sure any overhanging branches or large trees are cut back from your house and HVAC system.
  3. Flooding — If you live in a flood zone, it’s best to elevate your HVAC unit above flood level with a platform or other method. When you’re in a situation where flooding is likely, it’s best for your unit not to be running when flood waters rise.

What to Do After a Storm

STOP — Do not turn on your HVAC system until it has been properly checked. You may cause additional damage. (If you didn’t turn off the breakers before the storm, do that now before the power comes back on.)

When the storm has passed and it’s safe to move around outside, perform an initial damage assessment of your HVAC system. Be sure and check all components and systems. If you have a split system, there will be components both outside your home and somewhere inside (possibly the attic or crawlspace).

  1. Check for physical damage — Look for debris on and around your HVAC system(s).
  2. Check for flooding — Look for water lines on foundations of your home as well as the HVAC system itself.
  3. Lightning or Surges — Were you aware of any close lighting strikes or are you having problems with any other electrical devices in the home? If so, it’s possible you also sustained a surge to your HVAC system.

If you observed any issues related to the assessments above, call your HVAC service company. They can perform a more detailed assessment and may be able to fix your system without requiring a complete replacement.

Considering Repair vs. Replacement

If your system only sustained limited physical or electrical damage, it is very possible it can be repaired. However you should consider the age of your system. If the damage is minor but the age of your system is 12-14 years or more, you should give strong consideration to replacing it. In many cases the initial damage can be found and repaired, but other issues can surface down the road and can lead to long term reliability issues.

If your system sustained flood damage, replacement is even more likely to be the best choice– Especially if the air-handling portion of your system became partially or fully submerged. In addition to the fan(s) and ducting, the inside of your HVAC system contains insulation. Flood water can contain lots of nasty stuff that you don’t want growing inside your HVAC system. It can be very difficult to fully clean and sterilize your system in addition to being costly and time consuming.

If you system is already 10 or more years old and it has sustained physical or flood damage you should seriously consider replacing it. There’s a good chance your repairs are going to be costly, and when they’re complete you will still only have less than half of its expected life remaining.

Talk to the Experts

If you aren’t sure what to do and don’t have a lot of time to learn, you can always call in an expert. It is important to get your HVAC system working as quickly as possible. We’re not just talking about your own comfort– Your HVAC system cools and dries the air in your home, and this can help prevent mold and mildew from forming in areas that may have become damp.

Comfort Monster is always here to help. We can provide temporary air-conditioning units to keep you comfortable immediately while we repair or replace your HVAC system. There is no charge for estimates, so give us a call at 919-MONSTER today.