What to Do If Your Appliances Get Wet in a Storm

By Terry Mehilos | Aug. 30, 2017 10:54 am PST

wet appliances

How to prevent — and deal with — water damage to your washer, dryer, fridge, HVAC and other appliances.

Hurricanes, tornadoes, thunderstorms, floods — storm season is the time of year when Mother Nature can unleash her fury. As you batten down the hatches, what should you do with your appliances to help minimize damage? And once you’ve made it through the storm safely, it’s time to take stock of the damage. Are your appliances wet or standing in water? Then what?

Here are six of your biggest questions, answered.

1. Should I unplug my appliances before the storm hits?

You know what they say about an ounce of prevention. If a storm is on its way and there is a threat of flooding, it’s a good idea to unplug your fridge, dishwasher, washer and dryer, and cooking appliances. Unplugging them helps you avoid facing a room flooded with electrically charged water if the worst happens. (If you can, unplug your computer and phone, too, to protect them against a power surge.)

2. My basement is flooded, and I didn’t unplug my washer and dryer. Now they’re sitting in water. Should I unplug them?

No. If appliances are still plugged in and those appliances, electric cords or even outlets are submerged, you have a very dangerous situation on your hands. The electricity can charge the standing water, and you could be electrocuted.

3. There isn’t any standing water, but my appliances have gotten wet. Are they safe to use?

It’s tempting to fire up the washer and dryer after a storm if you have wet clothes, linens or other washables, but don’t do it. Water—even clean water—can damage the inner workings of the appliance, including the motor. Call a qualified service and repair expert to assess the damage.

4. Can I salvage and repair appliances that have been damaged in a flood, or should I replace them?

An appliance technician can tell you for sure if you can repair damaged appliances, but the decision to repair or replace depends on several factors, including the following.

  • Time: The longer they’re wet, the less likely they can be salvaged.
  • Warranty: Repairs or replacement parts might void it.
  • Corrosion: Floodwater is dirty, and dirt can corrode certain parts of appliances. Even if the machines are safe to use, you might find problems down the road.
  • Age: If your appliances are reaching their golden years anyway, it’s probably best to replace them. Repairs might cost as much or more as buying new, especially if your insurance is covering part of the replacement cost.

Travis Robertson, quality and process improvement manager for Sears Home Services, offers these guidelines for when to repair and when to replace specific appliances.

  • Repair: Dishwashers, washers and dryers, ranges, microwaves, home electronics, trash compactors and electric water heaters may all be repairable, depending on the extent of the damage.
  • Replace: Gas water heaters, small appliances, HVAC units, fridges and freezers will likely need to be replaced.

5. If the damage isn’t too extensive and I choose to repair my appliances, what should I make sure to have done?

Replace motors, electrical components, safety controls and gas valves if needed. Replace wet controls on ranges, ovens and cooktops. In addition, have your service technician check the electrical contacts and connections on your washer and dryer for water damage.

6. What about my HVAC system?

Call in an expert to assess the situation and give you a diagnosis. You’ll likely need to replace—not repair—your home’s HVAC system if it’s been damaged by water. Water corrodes, and corrosion can lead to safety reliability problems with your furnace, water heater and AC systems, gas and electric alike.

Bottom line? If your appliances have been exposed to water after a storm, call in an expert to assess the damage. Another call to make is to FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency. There might be funds available to help you replace damaged appliances.

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