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2000 ppm CO

We were just at a new customer home to do a maintenance on their 1972 Hydrotherm natural gas boiler boiler. The technician found the boiler putting out 2,000 ppm of CO as measured on our Testo meter. The technician immediately shut down the boiler and requested a visit from a comfort consultant to replace the boiler.
When I called and spoke with the customer i was informed that he was going to restart the boiler as soon as we left. I informed him that he was putting his family in danger and that we strongly recommend against it. He said that while he appreciated my "scare tactics" it was the holiday season and they were not in a position to replace the boiler at this time and could we come out sometime next week to talk about a new boiler as they had birthday parties to go to this weekend. I set an appointment for Monday. I then spoke with our technician and we determined that we were not going to collect anything for this call as we will not work on the boiler and do not want to have any responsibility for it or liability for anything happening to his family

What would you do about situations like this? Call the utility company, fire department, CPS as there are small children in the house?

Comments

  • Steve Minnich
    Steve Minnich Member Posts: 2,642
    I agree with Steamhead. I would have explained the situation to the customer, that this may take a little time to get the boiler functioning safely. If all my exhaustive attempts failed, then we'd have another discussion. What was the CO in the mechanical room? In the home?
    Author - Hard Knocks: My Life Inside Boiler Rooms
    PHC News Columnist
    Minnich Hydronic Consulting & Design, LLC
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/minnich-hydronic-consulting-and-design
  • Jeremy Dunitz
    Jeremy Dunitz Member Posts: 27
    Steamhead and Stephen,

    While I appreciate your responses I was not looking for a critique of my technician. He has over 25 years experience and I would put him up against anybody in the industry. If he said it's time for the 40+ year old boiler to be replaced than I will trust his judgement.

    My question was what to do about a customer who is turning a blind eye to a potentially fatal situation
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 15,328
    You have a major liability issue here: you -- or your tech -- were the last one to touch that boiler, so you own it.

    If you can possibly do it, get out there -- let's see, it's 11:30 here on the east coast -- by noon if you can, and see if you can adjust it down to something reasonable. If you can't, call the fire department while you are there, explain the problem, and ask them to come and inspect and lock out/tag out. If they won't call the gas company, ditto.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.
    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-Mclain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
  • Abracadabra
    Abracadabra Member Posts: 1,948
    edited December 2015

    Call the utility company, fire department, CPS as there are small children in the house?

    Yes. If the homeowner doesn't understand the danger he is putting anyone that steps into that house you need to act. You don't want your company's name being associated with a tragedy.

  • SWEI
    SWEI Member Posts: 7,356
    I would at the very least send a certified letter.
  • JStar
    JStar Member Posts: 2,752
    edited December 2015
    I'm with Steamhead. It's very rare that we can't bring CO levels down to a safe range. Customers appreciate the effort of doing that. They will always fight you on replacing a system based on the readings of your "magic wand analyzer". I would lock out the boiler and have the customer sign his name to take responsibility for the dangers. If he refuses to sign, I would still ask to adjust the boiler to make it safe. His life is more valuable than any dollar amount. Of course, if you do tune it up to make it safe, he may never trust you again.
    ChrisJ
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 14,319

    The technician found the boiler putting out 2,000 ppm of CO as measured on our Testo meter. The technician immediately shut down the boiler and requested a visit from a comfort consultant to replace the boiler.

    (snip)

    I was not looking for a critique of my technician. He has over 25 years experience and I would put him up against anybody in the industry. If he said it's time for the 40+ year old boiler to be replaced than I will trust his judgement.

    Well, you asked for our professional opinion and that's what you got.

    As you describe the situation, upon finding the outrageously high CO, the tech made no effort to find out why the CO was so high- he simply condemned the boiler.

    I would think that in 25 years, your tech would have learned to check manifold pressure and clock a gas meter. That would have been the first thing on my list, having seen a few 40+-year-old gas valve regulators sticking.

    I don't blame the customer for thinking he's getting scammed. This is the kind of thing that makes everyone in the business look bad. So what if the boiler is 40+ years old? Make the effort to fix the problem before you condemn it!

    You need to get back over there yourself and do what your tech didn't do. Doing so might just prevent this guy going online and slamming your company every chance he gets.

    And consider firing the tech.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/all-steamed-up-inc
    ChrisJKC_JonesRomanGK_26986764589
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 15,328
    I'm totally in agreement with Steamhead. It would be odd indeed if it were impossible to bring that thing into some semblance of proper operation -- and safety. I'm not saying that a new boiler might not be a bad idea, but step one is always public safety.

    And, as I said above, your tech. was the last one to touch that boiler, so he -- and your firm -- own that thing. You can't walk away from it, and at this point your liability exposure is terrifying.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.
    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-Mclain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
  • JohnNY
    JohnNY Member Posts: 2,624
    I've had many situations where I came across something not worth fixing or that I felt was dangerous to restore to service.
    My way of handling some of these, depending on many factors, often includes an email to the DOB, cc'ing the homeowner, alerting all to a known condition and a statement that the offending appliance has been left in a state of non-functionality by me or my representative.

    As a term of licensing, in NYC at least, Master Plumbers get fingerprinted (which really bothers me, what other trade license requires finger prints???) and can be held criminally liable for negligence in the field.

    I know there may be reasons for not fixing or attempting to fix everything you come across, but if you're not going to meet it head on, then back away carefully and know your exposure.

    Contact John "JohnNY" Cataneo, Master Plumber
    in New York
    in New Jersey
    for Consulting Work
    or take his class.
    SWEI
  • captainco
    captainco Member Posts: 465
    If the customer gets CO poisoned or dies you will be sued. They will lie as far as what you told them, if they are still alive.

    If you knew how to read and interpret your combustion analyzer readings you would have immediately diagnosed the problem and as Steamhead stated, you could have repaired it. I have seen thousands of boilers making high CO and have found almost none that couldn't be repaired.

    Certified letter is a great recommendation along with calling the gas company and hoping they have somebody smart there.
    ChrisJ
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,182
    For the last 8 years of my working career I worked for the post office fixing the mail sorting machines, I was fingerprinted and underwent a background check before I was hired.

    Bob
    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
  • JohnNY
    JohnNY Member Posts: 2,624
    That's a government job going in and out of government buildings. I get that.
    Contact John "JohnNY" Cataneo, Master Plumber
    in New York
    in New Jersey
    for Consulting Work
    or take his class.
  • Gordy
    Gordy Member Posts: 9,530
    @JohnNY I agree with you. How many other trades can bring the public in danger from their negligence as a contractor.
  • Gordy
    Gordy Member Posts: 9,530
    As to the OP agree with everyone here. I can't believe the 25 year technician did not check CO levels in the home, or at least the mechanical room for his own safety. Did he make sure there was an operating co detector? That's tough wood, and you own it as the last one there. CYA documentation inside, and out.
  • Steve Minnich
    Steve Minnich Member Posts: 2,642
    CYA was impressed on me to the nth degree my very first year in this great trade.
    Author - Hard Knocks: My Life Inside Boiler Rooms
    PHC News Columnist
    Minnich Hydronic Consulting & Design, LLC
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/minnich-hydronic-consulting-and-design
  • Harvey Ramer
    Harvey Ramer Member Posts: 2,215
    I always attempt to make the appliance safe before I leave. If I can't, I disable it to the extent that "someone not in the trades" can't readily reenergize it. Then inform all the appropriate parties.

    One thing that seems to be a reoccurring theme. People just love to take this great stuff foam and seal up every crack and crevice in the basement. The oversized boiler can't get enough make up air and the co goes through the roof in about 10-15 min.

    Ramer Mechanical
    ramermechanical.com
    To learn more about this professional, click here to visit their ad in Find A Contractor.
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 11,491

    I always attempt to make the appliance safe before I leave. If I can't, I disable it to the extent that "someone not in the trades" can't readily reenergize it. Then inform all the appropriate parties.

    One thing that seems to be a reoccurring theme. People just love to take this great stuff foam and seal up every crack and crevice in the basement. The oversized boiler can't get enough make up air and the co goes through the roof in about 10-15 min.

    I'd love to seal up my basement enough that the wind stops blowing papers off of the desk. Hell, I'd accept that in my livingroom! :smile:

    In all seriousness, as I make improvements I've been very cautious about that. I don't have mold or appliance venting problems and I'd like it to stay that way. But, a little less breeze would be nice.
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 15,328
    ChrisJ said:

    I always attempt to make the appliance safe before I leave. If I can't, I disable it to the extent that "someone not in the trades" can't readily reenergize it. Then inform all the appropriate parties.

    One thing that seems to be a reoccurring theme. People just love to take this great stuff foam and seal up every crack and crevice in the basement. The oversized boiler can't get enough make up air and the co goes through the roof in about 10-15 min.

    I'd love to seal up my basement enough that the wind stops blowing papers off of the desk. Hell, I'd accept that in my livingroom! :smile:

    In all seriousness, as I make improvements I've been very cautious about that. I don't have mold or appliance venting problems and I'd like it to stay that way. But, a little less breeze would be nice.
    I could tell you all some really funny stories about the energy efficiency drives around about 1970... and draught sealing school buildings in Vermont... and farmers' kids, fresh from the barn... and air quality.

    And what we did about it!
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.
    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-Mclain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
  • Gordy
    Gordy Member Posts: 9,530
    Not bad so long as they were not pig farmers.
  • SWEI
    SWEI Member Posts: 7,356
    Depends on what the pigs eat.
  • Gordy
    Gordy Member Posts: 9,530
    I don't know how one gets use to that odor. My hats off to the pig farmers.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 15,328
    Gordy said:

    Not bad so long as they were not pig farmers.

    Almost all dairy, but pretty strong even so.

    We basically told the environuts to go home, reconnected the steam heat in the vent stacks and opened them up again and got back to business...
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.
    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-Mclain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,182
    Nothing like the smell of a barn yard on a warm humid day - great for the garden.

    Bob
    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
    Gordy
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