As cleanup efforts in Florida continue after the crippling devastation from Hurricane Ian, HVAC contractors may be tempted to save and refurbish as much equipment as they can. But the dangers and hazards of saving and repairing flood-damaged gas equipment, such as regulators or torches used in brazing and soldering, are far too great to make refurbishing worthwhile.

As the potential risks associated with reusing flood contaminated equipment are numerous, a technical bulletin published by Harris Products Group highlighted some of the top risks associated with reusing flood contaminated HVAC equipment. 

Risks associated with reusing flood-contaminated gas regulators:

  • Heat of recompression fires in contaminated oxygen regulators.
  • High-pressure safety device failure due to debris contamination.
  • Pressure gauge explosion as a result of internal gauge failure due to contamination.
  • Damage to personnel or downstream equipment as a result of regulator performance failure to do contamination.

Regulators or other high-pressure devices can fail days, weeks, and even months after exposure. This can happen even after a repair is done, if it’s not done properly and thoroughly, due to internal part corrosion or inadequate repairs.

Risks associated with reusing flood-contaminated torches:

  • Flashback, backfires, and sustained backfires can result from flood contaminants.
  • Flashback arrestors, if exposed to flood waters, can become damaged and clogged irreversibly; rather than being safety devices, they could become hazards themselves.
  • Oxy-fuel torches and related equipment, unless completely disassembled (including un-brazing of some parts) and thoroughly cleaned and degreased, could result in failure due to contamination.

Risks associated with reusing flood-contaminated manifolds:

  • Downstream gas contamination in pipelines and or process equipment.
  • Heat of recompression fires in contaminated oxygen pipelines/systems.
  • Pipeline protection failure, potentially resulting in injury or extreme harm.

“Severe weather events are a good reminder about the risks involved with trying to reuse gas apparatus equipment that has been exposed to waterborne chemicals or other contaminants present in flood waters,” said David Gailey, manager of specialty gas products at Harris Products Group. 

“To prevent serious accidents and injuries, this type of equipment should be replaced instead of repaired or refurbished.” 

Gailey said the potential personal safety risks to operators associated with the reuse of a contaminated gas apparatus product far outweighs the very limited savings that might result from a standard repair or even total reconditioning. 

In other words, the money saved from refurbishing over replacing just isn’t worth it.