Hurricane Irene was a disaster for us as we live in a Northern state that was hit by flooding from the rain of Hurricane Irene. As a result of the loss of power and the flooding our basement was flooded. Our boiler happens to be in the basement and we will soon need the heat. We have had a few contractors come by and look at the boiler with one contractor telling us we need to replace the boiler and another telling us we can rebuild the boiler. My husband is the do it yourself type and he wants to turn the boiler on and see if it will work and then go with it for the winter however I am concerned about the boiler and the safety issues. What do we do? My husband has agreed to follow your recommendation.
Thanks for you advice and you have a great site!
I completely understand your dilemma as I have lived through a few hurricanes myself living on the coast of Virginia. I have also been involved in the process of evaluating boilers after one of those hurricanes came through Virginia in 2003. Hurricane Isabel was a major disaster for Virginia and did a lot of damage. I worked for an HVAC and Plumbing contractor that had many customers with boilers in the basement. Believe it or not Portsmouth and parts of Norfolk have many older homes that have basements even though the water level is so high and most homes in that area only have crawls spaces. The older homes with basements have boilers for heating. Both hot water and steam boilers so we were very busy assessing equipment including boilers, air conditioners and heatpump systems. The people needed statements from a professional either condemning the equipment or for repairing the equipment so they could get a fair payment from the insurance company from the damage. Of course that was for the people who had flood insurance and living that close to the water it is only smart to have flood insurance.
Most of the boilers we looked at were replaced with new boilers and only a few were completely rebuilt. The flood water was a key factor in why the unit was either repaired or replaced. If the unit was flooded with brackish or salt water it was recommended to be replaced as the corrosive effects of the salt is not good for a boiler long term so it was recommended those boilers be replaced. If the water was fresh water such as rain water then the boilers were rebuilt and re-certified for operation. I would say at a minimum all the gas or oil control components need to be replaced along with any refractory materials inside the boiler (lining the burner box) and any insulation in the boiler jacket as most of this insulation is fiberglass and fiberglass insulation will not have the same R-value after it gets wet as before. Anything electrical that was under water needs to be replaced such as a pump or zone valves if you have a hot water boiler.
So Beverly, if you live on the coast and the flood water that got into your basement was salt or brackish water then I recommend you replace the boiler simply because the salt water can penetrate the smallest seams in the boiler and even if these seams are cleaned well it will be practically impossible to get all the salt out of the boilers without a complete tear down and that is not so easy with some boilers. I am assuming you have a sectional boiler which many residential boilers are sectional boilers. If it was fresh water that flooded your basement then you can rebuild the boiler starting with the gas or oil controls and then replacing any boiler electrical components that were under water and then the insulation and refractory. Make a decision soon because the cold weather is around the corner and most of the contractors will be busy repairing and replacing other peoples boilers that got flooded. This happened after Isabel in Norfolk and Portsmouth with many people using space heaters into December and January. Good Luck and I hope it works out well for you!