By Four Star Mechanical Solutions Staff

“Rain, Rain go away.”  The flood season continues through May, so what can you do if you find yourself in high water?  Indeed, Kentucky has already experienced flooding in many regions this past month, so let’s go over what YOU can do after a flood to handle HVAC issues.

The obvious first steps remain removing and discarding HVAC system components that are contaminated with flood water, and cannot be effectively cleaned and disinfected. Replace them with new components.

Do not salvage duct insulation after a flood.  It is really not possible to de-contaminate, so the replace rule holds again.  Take this opportunity to seal the joints and avoid other water loss later.

However, there are a number of steps that the CDC recommends for building owners and let’s take a closer look here at their list taken from their website:

  • After removing any insulation and filters, clean all flood-contaminated HVAC system component surfaces with a HEPA-filtered vacuum cleaner to remove dirt, debris, and microorganisms. Pay special attention to filter racks, drain pans, bends and horizontal sections of air ducts where debris can collect.
  • After removing any insulation or debris, disinfect all HVAC system component surfaces while the HVAC system is not operating. Use a solution of 1 cup of household chlorine bleach in a gallon of water. Do not mix bleach with other cleaning products that contain ammonia.
  • Conduct the cleaning and disinfection activities in a clean-to-dirty work progression. Consider the use of auxiliary fans to supply “clean” air to the worker position and carry aerosolized contaminant and disinfectant in the clean-to-dirty direction, away from the worker’s breathing zones and towards the point of filtration and exhaust.
  • Follow the disinfection procedure with a clean water rinse. Depending on the amount of debris present, it may be necessary to mechanically clean the HVAC system component surfaces with a steam or a high-pressure washer before using the disinfectant. Gasoline powered pressure washers should be used outside away from air intakes to prevent carbon monoxide hazards.

What About Outside Exposure in Flood Conditions?

In outside areas of the compressor unit, packaged systems or heat pumps, you may also have to assess flood issues.  About 12 to 16 inches of flood water can be dealt with for home HVAC systems, not creating real problems.  But gas units may need the remediation and assessment because of the heat exchangers or gas burners near to the ground.  The damage may not be immediately obvious so be sure to have a qualified professional take a look.  In general, the replace, don’t repair rule applies.

In the Basement, Flooding Can be the Culprit

The HVAC or Air Conditioning system may fail in water has entered the basement.  Avoid fire and electrical shock risks, and replace rather than take chances.

For boilers submerged, replace all electrical controls, gas valves and electrical wiring before attempting to turn it back on.  Even float low water cutoffs not replaced can be a problem as corrosion can set it.  Rust and sediment must be taken out for efficiency and proper use.

Government aid may be available for expenses associated with loss and remediation. Contact FEMA for more information, the Federal Emergency Management Agency.