Editors Blog

HVACR Isn’t a Club, Amateurs Need Not Apply

November 13, 2012

Contractors and technicians are taught very early in their careers about the cautions of working with combustible elements, such as natural gas.

The deadly power of natural gas again burst into the national spotlight this week following a suburban Indianapolis explosion that claimed the lives of two neighbors, and left dozens displaced.

National syndicates were quick to frame a culprit: a gas furnace. But, investigators are not so quick to point the finger in the same direction.

The Associated Press (AP) is reporting that the home in questioned was owned by John Shirley and his ex-wife. Shirley claimed his daughter — who shared the home with his ex-wife and her mother’s boyfriend — told him that the furnace had recently gone out at the home. Shirley told police that he later learned that the furnace was again functional, but then speculated to authorities that the faulty furnace may be to blame for the blast.

Scott Davis, president and principal engineer, GexCon US, said in the AP report that furnaces are equipped with multiple safety switches that must be triggered before any gas is used. For an explosion of this magnitude to occur, Davis acknowledged that many safety features would have to have been defeated, and other precautions, including natural ventilation and low fuel flow measures, would also have to be invalidated.

Local, state, and federal investigators are examining pipelines and gas meters and are treating the area as a crime scene until foul play can be ruled out.

Gas systems all across the nation have wreaked plenty of havoc as of late. In 2011, a gas explosion claimed five lives in Allentown, Pa., and in 2010, eight people and 38 homes were incinerated in San Bruno, Calif. A September leak was to blame for a blast that landed five people in the hospital in Colorado.

Sounds pretty gloomy, right? However, take note that there is a very important lesson that contractors need to share with homeowners. Let them know that a competent contractor adhering to a regular maintenance schedule diminishes the threat of a faulty furnace.

A well-trained technician visiting on a regular basis will be sure to check for a blocked flue, improper burner adjustments, inadequate static pressure, indoor air pollution, leaks, and other threatening triggers. Filters will be cleaned or replaced and all safety measures will be examined and tested, and then double-checked again.

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