Tips for drying and cleaning hvac equipment after flooding

July 19, 2000
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Two key words in drying out a flooded house or building, and its flooded hvac equipment, are clean and disinfect.

After water removal, the first order of business is to “clean the muck out,” said Loren Eakes, president of Around the Clock Emergency Services, Ramona, CA, a disaster restoration company currently involved in the North Carolina recovery effort.

The owner must “dispose of all materials that are porous,” Eakes stated. Wallboard, for example, will disintegrate if it stays wet too long.

Around the Clock then performs high-pressure cleaning as well as disinfecting to control mildew and fungus and provide odor control. Disinfecting usually involves spraying of disinfectants such as phenols, and may require two or three applications. Ultraviolet light and thermo fogging are also used.

A growing problem

“Mildew is a big, big problem,” remarked Eakes. Dampness promotes the growth of mildew which can grow on everything.

After the home or building is thoroughly cleaned and disinfected, Around the Clock proceeds with structure drying, to completely dry out ceilings, walls, floors, etc.

Eakes’ firm notes that flood insurance and federal disaster assistance programs will often help the owner replace flooded gas and oil appliances. If the appliance will be kept, it needs to be thoroughly cleaned.

Bring along cleaning supplies, such as:

  • Buckets, brushes, and sponges;

  • Rubber gloves;

  • Cleaning products;

  • Disinfectants; and

  • Hair dryer (for drying of internal components).

The mud, silt, and other unknown contaminants in floodwater “not only get everything dirty, they are also unhealthy,” reminded Eakes. Be sure to clean and disinfect everything that the floodwaters touched. Be careful of the molds and fungus that will begin within 72 hours.

If ductwork is contaminated, the ducts also need careful cleaning to avoid spreading contaminants through the house upon system startup. Walt Christiansen, vice president, Dry Tech, Inc., Hendersonville, TN, another disaster recovery company, noted, “Molds and bacteria are airborne, so they go everywhere.” Therefore, his firm always recommends cleaning and sanitizing the entire hvac system.

For duct cleaning, Dry Tech uses rotary brush cleaning and then applies a biocide/fungicide. The company also typically applies an encapsulant to trap any remaining contaminants, thereby making sure no problems occur down the road.

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