If you do all the right things that are recommended by the industry, are you still endangering your customers? The answer is a definite maybe and that is not good enough.

Many years ago, I got involved in a lawsuit where a couple bought a new boiler for their home and wound up becoming injured due to venting issues that led to carbon monoxide poisoning. This is a frustrating story, but one that can be resolved without lawyers if contractors keep their field teams trained and educated on the combustion process.

In this scenario, a couple was happy to purchase and have installed into their home a new higher efficiency boiler. Their HVAC contractor was careful to follow all the manufacturer’s instructions. They followed procedures and obtained the appropriate permit and the job was inspected when it was finished.

All is good. Not quite!

Jim Davis, NCI, writes about Venting frustrations this month
Jim Davis, Senior Instructor, National Comfort Institute

Costly Call-Back

Just a few days after the boiler was installed, the homeowner found water running down the flue and across the basement floor and laundry room. Guess what? That customer was not happy! They called the contractor back. He did additional research and was told he should have used a flue liner because the chimney had a tile lining and the flue gases couldn’t heat it up.

So now this contractor, at his own cost, installs a flue liner. Guess what? That solved the water-on-the-floor problem. His frustrations began to mount.

Several months later, the contractor gets another call from the homeowners. They tell him something on the boiler smells like it’s burning and the boiler is no longer working. The contractor returns to the home and finds the wiring melted because the flames had been rolling out. Upon further inspection, he finds the flue liner was totally corroded and collapsed. He was certainly lucky that was all that happened. More frustrations.

Getting Help

The contractor consulted with the boiler supplier as well as the manufacturer. They recommended venting the boiler out of the basement window with a power venter because they felt the flue was just bad. So the contractor installed a power venter per everyone’s instructions, vented the boiler through the window, and felt he had done the best he could.

Many of us who try to do the right things often feel that by following experts’ instructions, we’re off the hook as far as liability is concerned.

Well, if someone tells you to do a backflip off a diving board, isn’t it your responsibility to check and make sure there is water in the pool?

The difference is that when you take instructions from a diving instructor, odds are the instructor has really done what he or she is asking you to do. What are the odds that the experts at the distributor have worked in the field as HVAC technicians?
Less than a week after the contractor re-installed the boiler and power vented it through the basement window, the lady of the house ended up in the hospital with CO poisoning. Frustrations now lead to danger.

Here comes the lawsuit. The contractor’s defense is that he did everything he was told, and the boiler was at fault. The boiler manufacturer claims there is nothing wrong with the boiler.

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