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Post-Hurricane Sandy Safety

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Joe Hurley Inc. has put together an information sheet here for homeowners regarding safety with your furnace, water heater, and more. We have gotten many calls for HVAC service. Safety is our number one concern, so please read the following tips to help keep your self, your family, your home and your possessions safe and intact.

UPDATE – Nov 8, 2012: We have just received an important safety update from one of our partners/suppliers, about service to flood damaged equipment.

In the event that HVAC equipment has been flood damaged or rendered inoperable due to a severe storm, the following steps should be taken before returning the equipment to operation:

• Any unit that is or has been partially or completely submerged must have the electrical power supply dis- connected immediately. The fuel supply to gas or oil burning equipment must be shut off.
• Complete equipment service must be performed on the equipment. Safe and proper operation of the equipment must be verified. Failure to do so can cause further property damage and/or personal injury.
• The extent of the damage will depend on the depth of the flood water, water type (fresh, brackish, etc) and the length of time that the unit was submerged.

Post-Hurricane Safety Information

TIP: Turn the Emergency Switch OFF

If your home and HVAC system has an Emergency Shut Off Switch (usually within a RED switchplate on the wall), TURN IT TO OFF. This will cut any electricity to the system. If you have a loss of electrical power, turning off the switch will protect the system from sudden jolting of electricity once power is restored. If you have flooding/water near your system, turning off the electrical supply will prevent the contras from short circuiting.

TIP: Let the System Dry Out

If your HVAC system did experience flooding, you will need to remove all water with a pump (again, AFTER the electrical power to the system has been shut off). Once the water is removed, drying time may vary. In low humidity environments, and with adequate ventilation (a fan may help) drying time could be anywhere from 1-4 days, or even more. If the system and controls are not completely dry, you risk short circuiting and frying the controls. They would then need to be replaced by an HVAC professional.

Fact: Gas Furnaces DO Require Electricity

The ignition, blower/motor and even thermostat require electricity to drive the furnace, so even though the heat comes from oil, natural gas, or propane, you need electricity in order to run the system.

Fact: Gas Water Heaters DO NOT Require Electricity

A self contained gas hot water heater will operate without electricity. If your unit has been compromised in some way due to wind, water or flood damage following Hurricane Sandy, whether electric or gas powered, it will need servicing. Many of our service calls at Joe Hurley Inc. in the past week have been water heater related.

TIP: USE CAUTION When Using Portable Generators

We do not recommend the use of portable generators for a number of reasons. In extreme cases, they can be helpful and even essential, but they can also cause many problems. From a safety aspect, exhaust fumes from a portable generator can be deadly, so it is critical to use them only in outdoor areas.

Many less expensive portable generators produce inconsistent, spiky electricity. The flow of current is not even and “clean.” What this means to the homeowner is that any devices with delicate electronic controls, such as are found in furnace control systems, computers and mobile phones etc., can be easily overloaded by electrical spikes from the generator. Frying electronics in this way will instantly render the useless.

Additionally, generators that are not properly grounded can cause safety and functional issues. From noise on radios and TVs to an overheating chassis and even electrical shock, all portable generators must be properly grounded to avoid equipment damage and personal injury.

Though more expensive, higher end portable generators will produce a more consistent flow of power and also may run more efficiently. This means less gas in the tank and less time in line at the gas station, as we’ve all witnessed following Hurricane Sandy.

TIP: Cleaning and Remediating Your HVAC System

Following a substantial storm such as Hurricane Sandy, houses, particularly lower levels and specifically HVAC systems, can become contaminated with dirt, debris, bacteria and fungus. In order to maintain healthy air quality and living environments in your homes, it is critical to be sure that the space and system are thoroughly cleaned and disinfected, and that all contaminated water, debris, and building materials are removed and discarded safely.

For complete information on cleaning and remediation of contamination, visit the Center for Disease Control’s website:
http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/emres/Cleaning-Flood-HVAC.html

All of us at Joe Hurley Inc. wish you and your families all the best during this trying time for our area. We hope that this information is helpful to you.