With hurricane season upon us, it’s important to know how to protect your home if the weather takes a turn for the worse.
Properly protecting your home’s appliances and wiring before evacuating will not only make it safer to return—but will also save you thousands of dollars in replacement costs.
For example, the average costs to replace common household appliances include:
Central AC: $6,000+
Water heater: $1,500+
Washer and dryer: $950+
The grand total? $9,475.
Surely, the last thing you want to do after coming back home is to worry about replacing almost $10,000 worth of appliances, right?
We’ll show you how to prevent that.
In this article, we’ll walk you through a checklist of steps to take both before and after a hurricane hits.
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What to do before a hurricane hits
To prepare your home for a hurricane and prevent having to replace major appliances, make sure you:
Take photos of your appliances.
Turn off individual gas lines (don’t turn off gas service).
Unplug electric appliances.
Elevate anything that will rust or corrode.
Turn off your main circuit switch.
Let’s break down each step a little further.
Step #1: Take photos of your appliances
For insurance purposes, you should take photos of your major appliances (washer, dryer, fridge, water heater, etc.). That way, you’ll have proof of ownership if you need to file a homeowner’s insurance claim for them.
If you can, take well-lit photos that include:
Every angle of the appliance
The manufacturer label with the model and serial numbers
The original receipt (or at least a card or Post-it with cost and purchase date)
Pro tip: Take a video recording of your home both before and after the storm. That way, you’ll have record of everything you own and what got damaged—all in one file.
Whether you take these pictures/videos with a digital camera or your phone, it’s a good idea to back them up somewhere (store them on a cloud or email them to yourself).
Step #2: Turn off individual gas lines
Do not turn off your gas supply at the your home’s meter. That should only be turned off or on by the utility company.
As your gas line runs underground, you don’t need to turn off gas service to your home. Instead, you should turn off the pilot and shut off individual gas lines to each appliance at a supply valve near the unit (most city codes now require these valves).
You can learn more about how to prepare your home’s gas supply for a hurricane on the Florida Natural Gas Association’s website.
Step #3: Unplug electric appliances
Unplugging electric appliances is the best way to protect them from being damaged by a power surge.
You might be thinking, “I have a whole-home surge protector. I’m good, right?” Unfortunately, you’re not. Even whole-home surge protectors can’t defend your appliances against lightning strikes, so it’s still a good idea to unplug everything in the event of a hurricane.
Some major appliances you should unplug:
Water heater (if yours is electric)
Refrigerator/Freezer (after clearing out food)
Step #4: Elevate appliances that will rust or corrode
Move portable appliances (TVs, microwaves, toasters, etc.) to something several feet off the ground (a countertop or dining table), in case your home floods. If you have a 2-story home, appliances would be even safer on the second floor.
Step #5: Turn off your main circuit switch
Once you’re ready to evacuate your home, turn off your home’s power via the main circuit switch. This will help prevent electric damage if your home floods.
What do to what the storm is over
Once authorities say that it’s safe to return home, follow these steps:
Survey the damage.
Have a professional check your electrical system.
Replace any wiring that’s been submerged.
Consider investing in a generator.
Step #1: Survey the damage
When entering your home after a hurricane, watch out for:
Hanging or loose power lines. If you see any, call the electric company right away. If it’s an emergency, call 911.
Standing water. If there’s standing water in or outside your home and your electric is still on, call your electric company to turn off the power.
Broken gas lines or natural gas odor. If you hear a gas leak or smell that rotten egg odor, call your utility company right away.
Step #2: Have a pro check your electric system
If your home is flooded, DO NOT turn your power back on without having your electric system checked by a professional electrician.
Here’s why: Turning your power back on before having your electrical system inspected by an electrician can short circuit appliances that were left plugged in (damaging them), or worse, start a fire.
It’s also a good idea to have the electrician check your unplugged appliances to make sure they’re still safe to use.
For more info, check out Consumer Reports’ article, “What to Know About Water-Damaged Appliances”.
Step #3: Replace wiring that’s been submerged
If your home’s wiring was submerged in water for days or even hours, you’ll need to replace it. The same goes for wiring in appliances, too.
See, even if an electrician tests the wiring and it works, it will probably corrode in the future—especially if your home was flooded with salty seawater.
On the plus side, the most expensive part of a rewiring job is tearing into and repairing the walls. But your water-damaged walls will have to be torn out anyway, so this is really the best time to replace your home’s wiring.
Step #4: Consider investing in a generator...before the storms come
Let’s say your home isn’t flooded but it’s without power (a typical problem after a storm). To avoid the hassle of being stranded without power, look into buying a backup generator.
Generators range in sizes, and you should be able to find one that powers exactly what you need—whether it’s a small portable generator to power only essential appliances or a standby generator to power your entire home.
But beware if you choose a portable generator and make sure it’s:
In a garage or other well-ventilated area. Generator exhaust contains carbon monoxide (a deadly, colorless and odorless gas). Carbon monoxide poisoning can cause serious health problems and even death.
Not running in rain or standing water. Water can not only damage your generator, but can also risk electrical shock to anybody nearby.
Have more questions on how to prep your home for a hurricane?
Whether you have questions on how to protect appliances or need your electric system tested after a flood, our licensed electricians are ready to help.
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