Unpredictable Spring Weather and your HVAC Equipment
Whether you agree with “climate change” or not, there’s no arguing that spring in the Midwest can be quite unpredictable. Already this spring, the Kansas City area is encountering flooding and the spring rains have not officially begun. We can hope the recent news accounts are now, just that; and no more flooding will occur. However, it’s always a good idea to be knowledgeable of what to do when unforeseen circumstances like this do occur.
Sometimes it doesn’t take a flood to cause standing water in your basement. Broken pipes and failed sump pumps can cause this dreaded malady, too. We all know, sometimes those things just happen.
The Midwest spring usually brings severe weather of some kind - lightning, torrential rain, hail and high winds come to mind. As your local HVAC Contractor, we want to make sure you know what to do in some of these conditions when it comes to your HVAC equipment.
Flooding and Standing Water
In the event of a flood, the Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute (the trade association representing HVAC and water heating equipment) recommends that homeowners take important safety precautions with regard to their heating and cooling equipment. Standing water can severely damage a home’s heating and cooling equipment. In most cases, the association recommends the equipment be replaced, rather than repaired. Manufacturers’ warranties do not cover failures caused by floods so your home insurance may be a resource to help finance the cost of replacement. If your homeowner’s insurance does not cover the damage, and it is the result of area flooding, we recommend homeowners contact the local FEMA office to see if aid is available. Visit www.fema.gov to see if aid is available in your area.
If your HVAC equipment has been submerged or damaged by standing water, it is recommended that all inspection and replacement work be done by a qualified contractor. Any unit that uses gas, oil and/or electricity as a power source should be inspected by a professional.
Whatever the cause, here are some important things to note:
IN ALL CASES, TURN ANY POWER SOURCE TO THE UNIT OFF until a qualified contractor can inspect it.
Some components that can be affected by storms and flooding:
Outdoor heat pumps and air conditioners.
Flood waters and units settling by excessive rain and standing water can cause repositioning, even by a small amount. This repositioning can create a potential for refrigerant leaks due to damage to the copper pipes. Positioning of the unit should be checked to make sure that it has not moved significantly or become out of level.
If the refrigerant system remains intact after the flood, the entire system should be cleaned, dried, and disinfected. Homeowners should have a contractor check the indoor and outdoor units' electrical and refrigeration connections, including all control circuits. The decision to repair or replace should be made after consultation with a qualified professional on a case-by-case basis.
If significant hail has occurred in the area, the outdoor coil should be inspected for damage. Hail often damages the fins on an air conditioner or heat pump’s coil which compromises the unit’s ability to function properly. Lightning strikes can also cause damage to your HVAC equipment. In some cases, a compressor failure can result.
Gas Furnaces and Indoor Air Handlers:
If there is any concern that flood water has reached a gas furnace or air handler, it should be inspected by a qualified HVAC contractor. Furnaces feature gas valves and controls that are particularly susceptible to water damage. While the damage might not be visible, corrosion begins inside the valves and controls, even if the outside appears to be clean and dry. At the very least, this damage can result in reliability issues.
If a house that has incurred flood damage contains a central forced-air system, it is important to also closely inspect the ductwork. Duct insulation that has been in contact with flood water should not be salvaged, as it is impossible to decontaminate. Ductwork may need to be replaced.
Commercial equipment – packaged units, rooftops, air handlers, etc. – are subject to the same issues as residential equipment, so the same guidelines should be observed. If there is any concern that flood water, high winds or hail have reached commercial HVAC equipment, it should be inspected by a qualified HVAC contractor. While damage might not be visible, corrosion begins inside the unit, even if the outside appears to be clean and dry.
Manufacturers’ warranties do not cover failure or damage due to floods, winds, fires, lightning, accidents, corrosive environments (rust, etc.) or other conditions beyond the control of the company.