Raise expensive building equipment to prevent exposure to flood water. Install a sump pump to drain water out of your home.
Homeowners experiencing repeated flooding may opt for medium-cost solutions such as installing sump pumps or raising building systems. Sump pumps keep basements dry by pumping out water away from a house to a higher ground level or a municipal storm drain. Raising HVAC systems, plumbing, electric meters, and other expensive building systems currently on the basement or ground level, to above flood levels can prevent future damage and reduce flood insurance premiums.
Adaptation at the local, state, and federal levels is often more effective and cost-efficient than individual efforts, but each plays an important role in reducing physical and financial flood risks. Unmanaged flooding can lead to a natural disaster event resulting in financial, social, and structural ruin. Use Risk Factor™ to find only property-specific flood risk assessments.
A personal solution to flooding in a home that works is to move water out of a basement and into a designated drainage area. The pump is placed in a constructed pit, typically beneath the basement floor. When the valves in the pump detect that the water levels are too high, the sump pump automatically starts pumping the excess water out of the home through a drainage line. Designated drainage areas to pump the excess water include dry wells, creeks or ponds, or the neighborhood drainage system. To determine where a sump pump should drain contact your local government for sump pump building codes.
Generally, sump pumps cost anywhere from $100 to $400 but there are other considerations that could add to the price of installing a sump pump. Sump pumps themselves vary in cost depending on size, horsepower, and other factors. The material a home’s basement is made out of can increase the cost of labor if it is difficult to remove, for example, concrete. Acquiring a permit to install a sump pump costs money as well. Any required drainage area and distance to that drainage area add costs to the sump pump as drainage lines will need to be acquired to get the water to this site. Additional costs will be incurred if a homeowner requires a licensed professional to install the sump pump.
The kind of sump pump that is most useful for a home depends on the amount of flooding that is experienced in that area. Selecting too high of horsepower could lead to a lowered lifespan of the pump due to it turning on and off repeatedly or cycling. Selecting too low of horsepower will not decrease the flood risk to a home because the sump pump will not be able to handle the amount of floodwater. There are four kinds of sump pumps: submersible, pedestal, battery-operated backup, and water-powered backup.
Submersible sump pump
A submersible sump pump is completely submerged in the water basin beneath a home’s basement. It is quieter than other sump pumps and saves space, however, it may not last as long as other types. A submersible sump pump contains the pump and motor in one unit and is the best option for homes that experience major flooding.
Battery-operated sump pump
Will operate even if power goes out during a flood. This kind of pump has a float switch that gets triggered when water in the pump’s basin rises, turning the pump on and allowing for extra security from flood damage.
Pedestal sump pump
A pedestal sump pump has a separate motor and pump. The motor sits on a pedestal above the basin where the pump is located and water is pumped from the basin to a designated drainage area. The motor is not submerged which makes it loud, but this also means it often has a longer lifespan and is accessible for maintenance.
Water-powered backup sump pump
Can also protect a home from flood damage when the power goes out because it uses water pressure to operate, not electricity. This sump pump uses municipal water to create enough pressure to create a vacuum that sucks water from the sump pit. A water-powered backup will increase a homeowner’s municipal water bill and some cities do not allow them to be installed, so be sure to check local government websites before installation.
Raise building systems
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 by 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 ensure 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 blocks 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 space for it. If equipment cannot be elevated or relocated, it can be protected in place by floodwalls and shields and with anchors or tie-downs. 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 tie-downs 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 a plastic pipe or non-corrosive metal, 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.
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