Learn about equipment that can be moved to prevent flood water exposure.
Homeowners experiencing repeated flooding can raise HVAC systems, plumbing, and electric meters currently on their basement or ground level to above flood levels. This can prevent future damage to expensive systems and could reduce flood insurance premiums as well. It can cost $6,000 or more to elevate HVAC systems, plumbing, and electric meters. Please note, an important first step is to contact the local zoning and building departments prior to making any improvements.
In order to protect heating, cooling, or ventilating equipment that is installed on the exterior or interior of a house from flooding, the equipment can be elevated above flood levels. The base flood elevation (BFE) determines the height that equipment should be raised above. A property’s BFE can be found through searching for one’s local county FEMA flood insurance rating map (FIRM). Raising equipment 1 or 2 feet above the BFE will not increase costs significantly and will insure protection from higher flood events. Flood Factor shows the future projections of flooding of a property and the future depths of flooding could be used to determine the extra elevation needed.
HVAC system raised to sit on a wood platform outside attached to a house.
Heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, such as hot water heaters, air conditioners, furnaces, propane tanks, and heat pumps, are typically placed on the ground and can be raised above flood levels by placing the equipment on a platform. Equipment that is located outside of the home can be raised on an elevated platform attached to the side of the house. HVAC systems that are outside or inside of the house can be placed on platforms of concrete or masonry block depending on the flood level and location of these appliances. If equipment is in the basement or garage and is multiple feet below flood level, there may not be enough room to place appliances on a platform above flood level.
Air conditioning unit is raised to sit on a brick platform outside on the side of a house.
Alternative options to raising heating and cooling equipment
If raising equipment is not a viable option for you, other options include relocating the equipment entirely, anchoring or tying down the equipment, or protecting the equipment in place. Heating, ventilating, or cooling equipment can be relocated to a higher level of a home if there is the space for it. If equipment cannot be elevated or relocated, it can be protected in place by floodwalls and shields and with anchors or tiedowns. A concrete floodwall can be built around equipment without having to move it. If the equipment is tall, a floodwall can be built around the equipment and an opening with a removable shield can be put in place so that the equipment can still be accessed. Anchors and tiedowns ensure that aboveground fuel storage tanks do not escape and float away during flooding. Tanks are tied down by metal straps or cables that cross over the tank and attach to anchors that are grounded into the earth.
Wiring for incoming electric, telephone, and cable TV can be mounted higher up on the same wall above flood levels. Wiring that is below the BFE should be encased in plastic pipe or non-corrosive metal, a conduit, so that it is easier to replace should it become damaged during flooding. Installing conduits vertically promotes drainage. Electrical panels should be relocated above flood levels. This could require moving the panel above the lowest floor and could call for additional components such as service disconnect in order to meet National Electrical Code requirements. Codes and local requirements may also call for replacing significant portions of house wiring when relocating electrical panels. Moving electric meters above flood levels also reduces power outage times after flood events. Work with local electric utility companies to see if relocation is possible and what the best relocation spot is.