While residents and business owners in Texas, Louisiana, and Florida struggle to rebuild their lives following the path of destruction left by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, local HVAC contractors and manufacturers have an opportunity to step in and do what they do best — provide comfort. Though heating and air conditioning often seem inherent, they’re not, and it’s not until we go without the comfort they provide that we begin to view them as the luxurious, superficial elements that they are.

While disaster response is a business opportunity for HVACR contractors, those who have been affected by these hurricanes are suffering on many different levels. So, as a business owner, how do you balance the humanitarian aspect with the business aspect?

“The HVAC business has always been service based,” said Nathan Walker, senior vice president of Houston-based Goodman Mfg. Co. “Homeowners seek local, independent HVAC dealers to make their homes comfortable, and HVAC contractors and technicians understand that they provide a beneficial and vital service to homeowners. I would suggest HVAC contractors err on the humanitarian side of this unprecedented natural disaster. A contractor who takes this approach today is likely to enjoy a long-term relationship with the affected homeowner.”

With so much devastation drowning the southern region of Texas, contractors may find it difficult to decide where to begin.

“Our suggestion is for contractors to start with their customer bases — those who they have maintenance agreements or consistent communications with because there’s a good chance they’ll have the most up-to-date records detailing the types of equipment they have in their homes or buildings,” said Todd Washam, director of industry and external relations, ACCA. Washam recommends educating customers, so they have an understanding of the types of problems that can result from flooded equipment. Understanding why replacement is necessary will help reassure customers that they’re working with a quality contractor.

Stephen Yurek, CEO and president, Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI), offered a list of tips to consider when it comes to dealing with flood-damaged HVAC equipment.

Split air conditioning and heat pump systems have power and control wiring between the indoor and outdoor parts of the system and piping through which refrigerant flows through the system. If flood water has repositioned either the indoor or outdoor units of a split system, even by a small amount, there is a potential for refrigerant leaks, Yurek said.

These systems will most likely require major repairs or a full replacement.

If the refrigerant system remains intact after the flood, the entire system should be cleaned, dried, and disinfected, Yurek continued. 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.

“Standing water in a yard, house, or basement can damage a home’s heating, cooling, and water heating equipment in ways that are not always readily apparent, putting families at risk,” Yurek said. “We advise homeowners to play it safe and replace rather than repair flood-damaged heating, cooling, and water heating equipment.”

Dennis Wood, senior manager, product support, Lennox Industries Inc., insisted contractors always put people first.

“There are a number of businesses in the community that have stepped up in this time of crisis,” Wood said. “I believe those companies will reap the benefits of their goodwill. In our industry, educating people about what to do and not to do regarding their HVAC systems is the first step in building trust. When opportunities arise, they’ll think of you and trust you.”

Properly troubleshooting the equipment will help qualified HVAC technicians quickly determine whether HVAC equipment should be repaired or replaced, said Wood.

“Extensive damage to the outdoor unit’s electrical components, wiring, insulation, and safety devices may suggest replacement rather than repair,” he said. “If the unit was operational when the floodwaters covered it, then it is likely to result in the need for a replacement of the unit. If the unit was under a minimum amount of water and the damage is to some basic, and easy to replace, components, then a repair might be the best option. In most cases, the best decision is to replace the damaged unit. Overall, each condition requires a professional assessment by a qualified HVAC technician.

“Water and electricity do not mix,” Wood continued. “HVAC systems are designed and engineered to operate within specific physical parameters. When units are subjected to operational conditions outside of those parameters, they may not operate as designed.”

ACCA recommends contractors should determine the cleaning needs and the economic practicality before undertaking any restorative activities.

“Do a visual survey of the equipment and the system components,” Washam said. “Take into consideration the age of the equipment, and try to give a good cost estimate of what it would be to restore it versus replace it. If cleaning or restoring the equipment is an option, ACCA has a standard for that — ACCA Standard 6, ‘Restoring the Cleanliness of HVAC Systems.’ This is a guide to help contractors with the restoration protocols for equipment.”

Despite the tragedy, there are always two sides to every story.

“There’s an opportunity to do things right in your home or building that you own or manage,” Washam continued. “This will be a good chance to hire a quality contractor who can install equipment correctly.”

While Walker agrees that the aftermath of these hurricanes may result in older, less efficient equipment being replaced with newer, greener systems, he’s not sold on the bright side of this tropical storm.

“The benefits of updating the efficiency of this equipment pales in comparison to what homeowners are faced with as they attempt to rebuild their homes and lives,” he said. “Given the condition of the surrounding areas, I am thankful and amazed at the way our employees have accepted the challenge to keep our facility functional. This is truly a definition of Texans helping Texans.”

However, the hand of help reaches far and wide. ACCA has a disaster relief fund that donates directly to contractors and their employees upon request.

“We sent out a communication to our members to let them know,” Washam said. “We’re also going to be providing some documents for contractors and consumers. For contractors, we will provide information about proper cleaning with some recommendations for reaching out to customers. For consumers, we’re going to emphasize the need to hire quality contractors who will be honest and install equipment properly.”

Goodman Mfg. Co. is developing promotional programs that will assist affected homeowners.

“These promotional programs are designed to offer direct benefits to homeowners should they need to replace flood-damaged units,” Walker said. “With these promotions, we are receiving excellent participation with our distributors and dealers.”

Likewise, Lennox Intl. Inc. is also doing what it can to help those who need it most. The company started a fundraising campaign with all proceeds going to the Red Cross.

“Lennox is matching every dollar that is contributed,” Wood said. “There are also walkathons planned at the corporate office and other grassroots efforts focused on fundraising and helping those in need.”

Rebuilding homes and lives in Texas and Louisiana following Hurricane Harvey is a daunting task that will require exhaustive resources, according to Lindsey Ford, manager, communications and events, Rheem Mfg. Co. In an effort to provide victims with basic supplies as quickly as possible, Rheem employees have chosen to create a donation program with World Vision. "We are acutely aware that thousands of people will not be able to return to the comfort of their homes for weeks, if not months. Rheem is working closely with our local distributors in the affected areas. It's both a priority and a passion for all of us at Rheem to help people get back in their homes quickly and with as little disruption as possible."

In addition to these gracious efforts, several other companies, organizations, and individuals are dedicating both time and money to the restoration of the impacted areas.

“My first suggestion is to remind HVAC technicians to be careful and safe,” Walker said. “Flooded HVAC units should be examined very carefully. If possible, the homeowner should be asked about the depth of water that flooded the home, how long the unit was under water, and if the unit was running when the flood occurred. Also, HVAC technicians should extend compassion to homeowners. They have been through a rough ordeal. Not only did their HVAC systems flood, but the home and its furnishings have likely been ruined. So, homeowners are attempting to rebuild and refurbish beyond the HVAC system.”

Yurek said contractors should encourage homeowners to look on the bright side.

“While flood damage can be a very traumatic experience, homeowners can turn misfortune into opportunity by considering new, energy-efficient models that will lower their future energy bills,” he said. “They also should ask their local utilities about available rebates for installing new, energy-efficient heating and cooling equipment. Competent contractors will also be able to advise homeowners about equipment eligible for federal tax credits or state energy rebates.”


According to Dennis Wood, senior manager, product support, Lennox Industries Inc., the following suggestions outline best practices to follow when it comes to troubleshooting flooded equipment.

A/C or Heat Pump Systems & Refrigerant Sections of Residential Package Units

If the refrigerant circuit is damaged resulting in a refrigerant leak or is open to the atmosphere and has been under water, the complete system (outdoor unit, refrigerant lines, and evaporator or air handler) must be replaced. If the refrigerant circuit is not open to the atmosphere, the following steps must be taken:

  • Ensure the electrical power supply to the system is off;
  • The equipment must be thoroughly cleaned, including the outdoor coil and evaporator in a furnace or air-handler installation. This may require removal and disassembly dependent upon depth of water and length of time submerged;
  • All electrical and safety components that have been under water must be removed and replaced with a new part, including electronic controls, defrost controls, or electric heat controls and sequencers; contactors; motors; and refrigerant pressure switches (non-hermetically sealed);
  • If insulation has been under water, it must be replaced with insulation of the same type, density, and thickness as the original;
  • Clean and thoroughly dry all electrical connections and compressor terminals. Any damaged wiring must also be replaced; and
  • After repairs have been completed, an operational safety check must be performed on the equipment. The correct operation of all safety devices must be verified.

Gas or Oil Furnaces & Heating Sections of Residential Package Units

  • Ensure the electrical power supply to the equipment is off;
  • The equipment must be thoroughly cleaned. This may require removal and disassembly dependent upon depth of water and length of time submerged;
  • All electrical and safety components that have been under water must be removed and replaced with a new part, including an ignition control, a gas valve, primary and secondary limits, a flame rollout switch, a combustion air inducer and pressure switch, an igniter, and blower motors;
  • Burners must be thoroughly cleaned and/or replaced;
  • If insulation has been under water, it must be replaced with insulation of the same type, density, and thickness as the original;
  • Clean and thoroughly dry all electrical connections, and replace any damaged wiring; and
  • After repairs have been completed, an operational safety check must be performed on the equipment. The correct operation of all safety devices must be verified.

System Accessories

All system accessories, such as thermostats, air filters, IAQ equipment, electrical devices, and the air distribution system, should be evaluated using the guidelines listed above.


A number of HVACR associations and manufacturers have started collection efforts to benefit those impacted by Hurricane Harvey. Listed below are just a few of those doing their part to help.


Two-hundred Friedrich Chill room air conditioners, totaling 10,400-pounds of window a/c units worth an estimated $55,000, were recently loaded up for delivery to Rockport, Texas, a town almost completely devastated by Hurricane Harvey.

The Friedrich a/c units were used by the Rockport Volunteer Fire Department, which was struggling to provide shelter for emergency responders in the area, including law enforcement officers, volunteer firefighters, emergency medical personnel, and dispatchers, after many lost their own homes and businesses.

“Friedrich contacted us and asked, ‘tell us what you need,’” said Gillian Tate, volunteer firefighter, Rockport Fire Department. “I said we have an urgent need for 50 a/c units, but we could really use 200. They said, ‘consider it done.’”


John Gentile, CEO, Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA), announced a call-to-action via email to assist those affected by Hurricane Harvey.

“MCAA has often been called a family,” he said. “And, tragically, members of our family now need our help. The purpose of this message is to respectfully request that you consider making a contribution to the MCAA Disaster Relief Fund. You may remember the fund from our response to Hurricane Katrina.

“Most importantly, please know that every dollar our fund receives will be promptly redistributed to those office and field employees of our member companies who are desperately in need as a direct result of Hurricane Harvey. Should you be in a position to contribute, please make your check out to the MCAA Disaster Relief Fund and mail it to my attention at the MCAA National Office, 1385 Piccard Drive, Rockville, MD 20850.”


The extent of damage that has affected Heating, Air-conditioning, and Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI) members and their employees who were hit by Hurricane Harvey is coming to light, and the stories are truly heartbreaking. If you belong to a HARDI member’s community and are looking for a way to welcome any assistance or donations, you can set up a crowdfunding campaign that we can share with the rest of the HARDI community.

The process for setting up a campaign is quick and easy, and a great service to use for it is https://www.youcaring.com/. The only fee through this service is from the payment processor (WePay or PayPal) on donations, so the donated money goes more directly where intended.

Please send completed fundraiser links to hardimail@hardinet.org to be added to HARDI’s Unity web page, http://hardinet.org/hardi-unity.


Johns Manville (JM) recently announced it will donate $50,000 to the American Red Cross Hurricane Harvey relief fund. The company also plans to match employee donations dollar-for-dollar to the same fund.

“We have all been watching the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey in Houston and the surrounding region,” said Mary Rhinehart, president and CEO, JM. “The pain and anguish on the faces seen in pictures from the flooded areas is heart-breaking. These are the times when helping people matters most.”

Publication date: 10/2/2017