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The GAMA warning stems from past reports of accidents resulting from improper do-it-yourself repairs of flood-damaged appliances. One homeowner, for example, suffered severe burns in a flash fire that occurred when he tried to re-light the pilot on his flooded gas water heater. The Association stresses that not only gas equipment is at risk, but also units using oil or electricity as the energy source.
"Controls damaged by flood water are extremely dangerous," notes GAMA President C. Reuben Autery. "Attempts to use equipment with defective gas or oil control devices can result in fires, flashbacks or explosions. And in the case of electric appliances, the result can be injury or even death from a powerful electric shock." The GAMA official noted that devices at risk include water heaters, furnaces, boilers, room heaters and air conditioners.
The Association stresses that the repair of flooded appliances and related systems (including damaged venting and electrical connections) is not a job for the do-it-yourselfer, no matter how skilled. This is particularly true of control valves, according to GAMA officials. These components are manufactured to extremely close tolerances. Once submerged in flood water, they must be replaced. Field repairs should never be attempted by the homeowner.
Even when controls appear to be operative, the unit should not be used after flood waters recede. "It may work for a while," Autery explains, "but it will deteriorate over time. It might take a week, a month, or even a year, but once any control has been under water, it presents a serious hazard...fire or explosion in the case of gas controls, fire or shock in the case of electric equipment."
Because so many things can go wrong as a result of flood water, it's usually cheaper, and always safer to replace, rather than repair, Autery stresses. "You can have a control valve replaced, but there may be damage to other parts of the unit, like venting, piping, burners and insulation. There are just so many things that can go wrong, the wise choice is always to start over with new equipment," the GAMA official declared.
In some instances, government aid may be available to help consumers finance the replacement of flood-damaged heating equipment. For information, homeowners should contact any of the offices of the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA), set up to help flood victims.