Flooding forces homeowners to ask many difficult questions about water-damaged electrical equipment in their houses.
Can I use appliances after they dry out? Are circuit breakers and fuses safe to use? Will I need to replace my electrical wiring?
Floodwater contaminants can create serious fire hazards if electrical wiring and equipment have been submerged in water. Even with professional cleaning and drying, sediments and toxins are difficult to remove. As families begin to clean up after a flood, there may be hidden electrical hazards.
This is not a do-it-yourself project!
Before beginning, have a qualified electrician check the house wiring, assess other damages and proceed with repair work. Then, follow these important safety tips:
Do not flip a switch or plug in an appliance until an electrician tells you it is safe.
Do not touch a circuit breaker or replace a fuse with wet hands or while standing on a wet surface. Use a dry plastic or rubber-insulated tool to reset breakers and use only one hand.
Do not allow power cord connections to become wet. Do not remove or bypass the ground pin on a three-prong plug.
Use portable ground-fault circuit-interrupter (GFCI) protective devices to help prevent electrocutions and electrical shock injuries.
If electrical devices such as circuit breakers, fuses, GFCIs, receptacles, plugs and switches have been submerged, discard them.
When using a wet-dry vacuum cleaner or a pressure washer, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions to avoid electric shock.
Portable generators emit carbon monoxide (CO), a poisonous gas that is colorless and odorless. For this reason, portable generators should never be used indoors or outdoors near open doors, windows or vents.
Do not turn on damaged electrical appliances. Electrical parts can pose an electric shock hazard or overheat and cause a fire.
Replace or Recondition?
Some items may be reconditioned, while others will need to be completely replaced to protect you and your family.
It is recommended that you allow an electrician or electrical inspector to guide the restoration or replacement of any electrical wiring or equipment.
Corrosion and insulation damage can occur when water and silt get inside electrical devices and products. Water can also damage the motors in electrical appliances. Therefore, you should be prepared to replace:
Circuit breakers and fuses.
All electrical wiring systems.
Light switches, thermostats, outlets, light fixtures, electric heaters and ceiling fans.
Furnace burner and blower motors, ignition transformers, elements, and relays for furnaces and hot water tanks.
Hot water tanks.
Washing machines, dryers, furnaces, heat pumps, freezers, refrigerators, dehumidifiers, vacuums, power tools, exercise equipment and similar appliances.
Electronic equipment, including computers and home entertainment systems.
Outdoor electrical pool and spa equipment.
After a hurricane, tornado or blizzard, UL and FLASH recommend consumers consider these five tips before ingesting or swimming in water after a storm or flood:
1. Assume that the water is not safe to drink. Use properly stored water or boil your tap water.
2. Boil water at a roiling rate for 10 minutes if a boil order is issued in your community.
3. Control standing water and mosquitoes by applying a larvae control product to standing water or a film of vegetable oil to the surface.
4. Eliminate standing water if at all possible. Adequate drainage outside, adjacent to, and especially under your home is essential. Standing water under a home can cause high humidity levels inside and cause floors to warp and buckle.
5. Be aware of potential pest problems in your area, such as mice, rats, insects or snakes that may have come with the storm.