Raise Home Utilities Above Flood Waters to Rebuild Safer and Smarter

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Release date: 
September 28, 2011
Release Number: 

BURLINGTON, Vt. -- As Vermonters repair their homes in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene, recovery officials are urging residents to build their homes safer and smarter.

Raising electrical components and heating, ventilating and cooling (HVAC) equipment above potential flood levels can provide flood protection for a home. Homeowners can also implement cost-effective preventive measures such as raising electrical systems.

HVAC equipment, such as a furnace or hot water heater, can be damaged extensively if it is inundated by floodwaters. The amount of damage will depend partly on the depth of flooding and the amount of time the equipment remains under water. Often, the damage is so great that the only solution is replacement.

In flood-prone houses, a good way to protect HVAC equipment is to move it from the basement or lower level of the house to an upper floor or even to the attic. Relocation can involve plumbing and electrical changes so both of these methods require the skills of professional contractors. Another option is to leave the equipment where it is and build a concrete or masonry block floodwall around it.

However, this option may be less desirable as you will need enough space in the enclosed area for system repairs and routine maintenance. Also depending on its height, the wall may have to be equipped with an opening that provides access to the enclosed area. Any opening will have to be equipped with a gate that can be closed to prevent floodwaters from entering.

Electrical system components, including service panels (fuse and circuit breaker boxes), meters, switches, and outlets are easily damaged by floodwater. If they are inundated for even short periods, they will probably have to be replaced. Another serious problem is the potential for fires caused by short circuits in flooded systems. Raising electrical system components helps you avoid those problems. Having an undamaged operating system after a flood will help you clean up, make repairs and return to your home with fewer delays.

All components of the electrical system, including the wiring, should be raised at least one foot above the 100-year flood level. Property owners can contact their local floodplain administrator or refer to their local floodplain ordinance for information on their community’s 100-year flood elevation.

Your contractor should check with the local power company about the maximum height that the electric meter can be raised. In an existing house, raising electrical system components will require the removal of some interior wall sheathing such as drywall. If you are repairing a flood-damaged house or building a new house, elevating the electrical system will be easier. Electrical system modifications must be done by a licensed contractor.

All these repairs and modifications should be carried out only by a professional contractor licensed to work in your area. When hiring contractors to repair homes damaged by flooding, disaster officials urge Vermonters to be very cautious. One way to avoid being taken by con artists when hiring contractors is to make sure they are licensed. To find out whether a contractor is registered, you can check with the Office of the Vermont Secretary of State at www.sec.state.vt.us. Licensure is required for asbestos, plumbing and electrical work. A listing of licensed electrical and plumbing contractors can be found on the Vermont Department of Public Safety/Division of Fire Safety’s web site at:  firesafety.vermont.gov and clicking on the Licensing/Certification tab.

Disaster recovery assistance is available without regard to race, color, religion, nationality, sex, age, disability, English proficiency or economic status.  If you or someone you know has been discriminated against, call F...

Last Updated: 
July 16, 2012 - 18:46
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