How to Protect Your Home's Service Equipment

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Release date: 
November 20, 1998
Release Number: 
1257-038

SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- To some Texans whose homes were damaged by flooding, it seemed like the movie "Groundhog Day." They were trapped in a never-ending cycle of flooding and repairing, flooding and repairing.

Although recent improvements in construction practices and regulation have made new homes less prone to damage, many homes continue to be ravaged by floods again and again. But, there can be a happy ending. Homeowners across America can learn techniques to break the cycle of repetitive damage and protect their homes, and even enhance its attractiveness and value.

When your home is first built, it is provided with a variety of building support service equipment. They include electrical systems, telephone and cable TV lines, water and sewer systems, natural gas lines, septic tanks, heating and air conditioning systems, and appliances. Some of this equipment is found outside the home, some is inside.

The original placement of service equipment was probably based on standard construction practice and the budget concerns of your builder. All the equipment is vulnerable to surging floodwaters. All can be protected from flooding.

Whatever you decide to do, check with local officials before you start any work rebuilding. Local ordinances and codes determine in large part what you can and cannot do - and what you should do.

Disaster recovery experts say there are three ways to reduce damages to service equipment - elevate it, relocate it or protect it.

The feasibility of elevating equipment depends on the flood level in your area. When you rebuild or repair your home consider these tips:

Elevate it above flood levels

  • Raise incoming utility services that are mounted outside your home, such as meters, electric, phone and cable TV lines.
  • Elevate electrical outlets, switches, light sockets, the main breaker or fuse box, baseboard heaters and wiring at least 12 inches above potential flood levels.
  • Raise washers and dryers on masonry or pressure-treated lumber at least 12 inches above projected flood levels.
  • Elevate outside air conditioning compressors and heat pumps on masonry or pressure-treated lumber, raising them 12 inches above potential flood levels.
  • Suspend furnaces that operate horizontally from ceiling joists if the joists are strong enough to hold the weight. Install a draft-down furnace in the attic, if allowed by local codes.

If flood levels are at or near your home's ceiling height, elevating your service equipment isn't always possible. Instead, equipment will have to be relocated to an upper floor in your home or protected with special shields or anchored in place. Consider the following suggestions:

Relocate it or protect it if flood levels are higher

  • Relocate, elevate or anchor hot water heaters.
  • Anchor fuel tanks with metal straps and fasteners to prevent them from overturning or floating away.
  • Secure shelves and water heaters to nearby walls.
  • Build a concrete floodwall to surround furnaces and hot water heaters (for flood depths less than three feet).
  • Install flood shields for doors and other openings (after evaluating whether the building can handle the water's force) to prevent floodwater entering.
  • Install backflow valves or plugs to prevent floodwaters from entering your home through drains, toilets and other sewer connections.
  • Connect all receptacles to a ground fault interrupter circuit to avoid shock or electrocution. A licensed electrician should do all electrical work.

No one wants a repeat performance of their home damaged by a flood. Homeowners can break the damage-repair cycle.

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Last Updated: 
July 16, 2012 - 18:46
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