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How to Identify Water Damage to HVAC Equipment

After a hurricane or flood hits, it is time to begin the damage evaluation process. One of the most difficult items to assess—for both insurance adjusters and homeowners—is the HVAC equipment. It is challenging to determine just how severe the water damage is from the outside, and since the equipment is so expensive, claims should not be made haphazardly. Here are the steps to follow to determine how severe the water damage is to the HVAC equipment, even if it can’t be turned on.

Inspect the Outdoor HVAC Equipment

The outdoor condensing unit is the obvious first stop when evaluating water damage. While outdoor HVAC equipment is built to withstand the elements, that doesn’t mean it can survive a hurricane intact. Floodwater is full of mud and debris, and it will often move at rapid speeds. To assess the damage, the following steps should be followed:

  • Inspect the condenser coil fins for any debris or dirt that is stuck on them. The location where the debris stops usually indicates how high the floodwaters reached within the unit. Knowing how high the water was is key to understanding how much damage was sustained.
  • Look over the back panel of the HVAC equipment, as well as the electrical compartment or adjacent wall to help determine what the water level was.
  • Once it is known how high the water level was, it will be clear which components may be permanently damaged from the water exposure, such as the fan motor, compressor, or electrical compartment.
  • Check the condensing unit to see if it moved at all on the pad. If it did, the copper lines should be inspected for any kinks or breaks. If these are broken, there is a chance that contaminants were able to get into the refrigerant loop, which could potentially ruin the compressor or other parts within the HVAC equipment.

Inspect the Indoor HVAC Equipment

The risk of damage to the indoor HVAC equipment depends a lot on the type of equipment and its location. If the HVAC equipment is on the second floor, there is a good chance it was unscathed. However, if it was on a lower floor, it definitely needs a thorough inspection.

Use the same tips suggested for the outdoor unit on the indoor unit (like looking for debris and inspecting the surrounding areas for signs of the water level). If the unit is horizontal, any amount of water that reaches the HVAC equipment will likely cause significant damage. However, if the HVAC equipment is vertical, major repairs probably won’t be necessary unless the water reaches the burner compartment (which is several inches above the ground).

Once it is determined how high the water levels rose during a hurricane or flood, it will be easier to assess how much of the HVAC equipment needs to be repaired or replaced.