Heating oil tanks and furnaces are commonly placed in basements. However, this can present a problem if the basement floods. The rising waters can cause the heating oil tank to overturn, which can cause heating oil to be spilled into the flood water. Flooded furnaces may no longer work effectively. Here's what you need to know if your heating oil tank and furnace are in your basement.
Health risks of heating oil
The vapors of heating oil are toxic and can permeate throughout the home, especially when there is a large spill such as when tanks overturn. Exposure to heating oil vapors can cause headaches, light-headedness, nausea and increased blood pressure. It can also cause concentration difficulty, confusion and poor coordination.
If the heating oil comes in contact with your skin, you may develop blisters and have pain and itchiness. Swallowing heating oil, such as when it contaminates the drinking supply, can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramps. It can also cause breathing problems and drowsiness and can lead to coma or death.
CAUTION: Go to the nearest ER if you or a family member shows any of these symptoms after exposure to heating oil.
Explosion risk of heating oil
Heating oil is combustible, of course, so there is a high risk of explosion when it is spilled. It's extremely important to prevent an explosion by turning off all flame sources, including your stove, furnace, and all gas-operated appliances. Extinguish all candles and cigarettes. Do not use matches or lighters.
Open all windows and call the fire department. The firefighters can determine whether or not the spill is significant enough to cause an explosion. If so, they will call an environmental specialist to clean up the spilled heating oil.
If the spill is minor, call a flood damage restoration service to get rid of the oil-contaminated flood water. However, there may be a lingering odor after cleanup, from the residuals that may be left behind. You can eliminate this odor by placing several paper plates of coffee grounds on the basement floor.
Corrosion risk of flooded furnaces
Furnaces that are flooded are vulnerable to corrosion because the flood water can reach the mechanical parts inside the furnace. Most experts recommend replacing furnaces that have been flooded. The reason for this is because corrosion inside furnaces can eventually lead to serious problems with the furnace, including the risk of explosion.
Turn your furnace off by shutting down the power supply to it. Do not use your furnace if it has been flooded. Call your HVAC technician for service or replacement.
Reduce Your Risks
If you live in an area that is prone to flooding, it is important to reduce your risks. Waterproofing your basement can help reduce your risks but may not hold back a severe flood.
Therefore, it's important to elevate your heating oil tank and furnace off of the basement floor. The height of the new flooring will largely depend on how high your risks of flooding are. You can ask your homeowner's insurance company for this information, or get a FEMA flood map for your area.
Given the heavy weight of these items, you'll need to install a sturdy base to set your heating oil tank and furnace on, such as a raised concrete floor with rebar enforcements. Hire a concrete contractor to do this work for you.
Of course, your heating tank supplier and HVAC technician will need to be available to disconnect and reconnect the tank and furnace after the raised floor has been installed.
Given the health, explosion, and corrosion risks involved when heating oil tanks and furnaces are affected by flooded basements, it's important to mitigate the risks with education and prevention.
Hop over to this website to learn more about caring for your heating oil tanks and furnaces.