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Stubborn Homeowners

I received a call to help a friend's aunt who lives on LI. (I don't work on LI, I stay in 5 bouroughs)
the call: no heat
when I got there the house was warm and the homeowner noted that the boiler just started working this morning. i stepped down into the basement and noticed a New Yorker atmospheric hot water boiler, standing pilot with 2 heating zones and an indirect storage tank with an aquastat controlling the 3rd circ. Taco circulators and taco relay w/ priority...typical so far.
the boiler had just cycled off before i got down into the basement and i started going through my size up of the system when i noticed the 6" flu pipe venting out the sidewall of the basement instead of going into a chimney. as the boiler temp dropped, (and there still being a call for heat so zone 1 circ was still running) i was awaiting patiently for the boiler to kick back on when i heard a draft inducer motor kick on. i politely asked the homeowner who had installed this draft inducer on your atmospheric boiler to which she replied, "a local plumber from the area" and naturally i asked were they licensed? and she replied as they usually do, i don't think so. she continued to say her spill switch kept tripping and this was the plumbers response to the issue.

i quickly told her that she has an extremely unsafe condition and i explained what i would do to correct this unsafe condition to which she replied, "I'm not looking to put any money into the system, i am selling the house". momentarily i was relieved, thinking to myself a home inspector might see this and hopefully know what theyre looking at and advise the potential buyers to beware. to my dismay, i found that lots of home inspectors have been there before employed by potential buyers and that none of them advised of this unsafe condition. i told her i would not feel comfortable servicing this unit until we get rid of that draft inducer, put a power vent on and re-do that flue piping and at that she said thanks for your time sorry to bother you and that was that.

Comments

  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Member Posts: 10,379
    What is it that @Steamhead says? All together now...
    Jamie



    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
  • captaincocaptainco Member Posts: 424
    I hope you left nothing behind that shows you were there because you are now liable. That boiler should have been Red Tagged on the spot and a Death Warning Issued! It may work sort of safe for all the wrong reasons but it shouldn't be allowed to work at all. I would call a heating inspector or gas company or someone. Better warn your friend also.

    Now that the homeowner has been advised they fall under the laws of disclosure.
  • EBEBRATT-EdEBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 5,706
    I would send her a letter advising of an unsafe condition, return receipt..certified or something


    Unfortunately we may read about this in the newspaper.

    The homeowner can't be trusted, friends aunt or not. If something happens she would have no problem dropping your name as the last person there.

    I would cmoa
  • SlamDunkSlamDunk Member Posts: 526
    I’m a plant maintenance person with no licenses. I dread when neighbors ask me to do something to help them save money.

    If it is late at night, or a holiday weekend, I’ll get them out of a pinch. Most other times , I’ll say I’m busy or too inexperienced for the job.

    I dont carry liability insurance and I sleep better.
  • Harvey RamerHarvey Ramer Member Posts: 2,186
    Red tagging something is kind a hard spot for us. We have not been granted the authority to do so, yet we are liable if we don't. And most times it happens with the contrary type HO or 'LL. I do what I feel is the right call and let the local powers that be know if i red tag something.
    Ramer Mechanical
    ramermechanical.com
    To learn more about this professional, click here to visit their ad in Find A Contractor.
  • JohnNYJohnNY Member Posts: 2,235
    captainco said:

    That boiler should have been Red Tagged on the spot and a Death Warning Issued!
    Now that the homeowner has been advised they fall under the laws of disclosure.

    "Red tag"? Death Warning"?

    We're plumbing and heating contractors. Let's not take ourselves too seriously.

    A simple signature on an invoice with an intelligently worded description of the condition and warning of potential, or actual, consequences will do. I also instruct my guys to shut the power switch/gas valve on any appliance in such a condition and show the homeowner what was done to disable the equipment. If they turn it back on it's on them but we leave it off.
    Except in EXTREME circumstances, I'm not going to be the company that walks into a client's home and takes their heat away from them.

    And the reality is that in the case described above, the inducer probably did effectively rid the boiler of flue gases. Even though the job was terribly executed.

    That said, about a half-dozen or so times in my career, I have stepped out of the home and called the Department of Buildings immediately and made a report of the condition from the porch, but that's when clients have been so dangerously negligent and unreasonable that I felt an Authority needed to be notified. All I need is someone to tell me they understand the situation and intend to address it. I make a point that I don't care who they use to do the work.
    For installations, troubleshooting, and private consulting services, find John "JohnNY" Cataneo here at :
    "72°F Mechanical, LLC"
    Or email John at [email protected]
    John is a professional Master Plumber, licensed by The Department of Buildings of The City of New York, and works extensively in NYC while consulting for clients in and out of state.
  • pecmsgpecmsg Member Posts: 718
    PlumbNYC said:

    I received a call to help a friend's aunt who lives on LI. (I don't work on LI, I stay in 5 bouroughs)
    the call: no heat
    when I got there the house was warm and the homeowner noted that the boiler just started working this morning. i stepped down into the basement and noticed a New Yorker atmospheric hot water boiler, standing pilot with 2 heating zones and an indirect storage tank with an aquastat controlling the 3rd circ. Taco circulators and taco relay w/ priority...typical so far.
    the boiler had just cycled off before i got down into the basement and i started going through my size up of the system when i noticed the 6" flu pipe venting out the sidewall of the basement instead of going into a chimney. as the boiler temp dropped, (and there still being a call for heat so zone 1 circ was still running) i was awaiting patiently for the boiler to kick back on when i heard a draft inducer motor kick on. i politely asked the homeowner who had installed this draft inducer on your atmospheric boiler to which she replied, "a local plumber from the area" and naturally i asked were they licensed? and she replied as they usually do, i don't think so. she continued to say her spill switch kept tripping and this was the plumbers response to the issue.

    i quickly told her that she has an extremely unsafe condition and i explained what i would do to correct this unsafe condition to which she replied, "I'm not looking to put any money into the system, i am selling the house". momentarily i was relieved, thinking to myself a home inspector might see this and hopefully know what theyre looking at and advise the potential buyers to beware. to my dismay, i found that lots of home inspectors have been there before employed by potential buyers and that none of them advised of this unsafe condition. i told her i would not feel comfortable servicing this unit until we get rid of that draft inducer, put a power vent on and re-do that flue piping and at that she said thanks for your time sorry to bother you and that was that.

    I love that response! Your selling the house, walking away with 6 figures profit and are willing to put the new owners lives in danger.
    A call to the local Fire Department usually will get a response concerning potential CO poisoning!
  • captaincocaptainco Member Posts: 424
    I believe there is a real problem if we don't take our job seriously! Who does the consumer have to protect them other than us? What would they think if I take everyone's life seriously. Having been involved in court cases where equipment was Red-Tagged but not disabled and people died there are some contractors that might have wish they took their job seriously. They paid considerable penalties in civil suits because they did not adequately warn the people that they would die if the equipment was turned back on.
    I would hate to think I went to a doctor that didn't take his job seriously. What about a fireman or a policeman that didn't take their job seriously?
    As I said earlier, we are the only true knowledgeable and experienced persons in this industry and we must accept it!!
  • SteamheadSteamhead Member Posts: 12,923
    Unfortunately, as @Harvey Ramer says, in many areas we do not have the legal authority to disable equipment. We can take our jobs as seriously as anyone else, but the law is the law.
    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
  • SlamDunkSlamDunk Member Posts: 526
    I think the OP was doing a favor for a friend. If there is no paperwork, no money trail, there is no problem.

    If there is paperwork, I'm sure the OP would have written the nature of the call as an inspection and that there is a problem.

    What more can a contractor do besides reporting it to authorities?

    Turn off the heat and you have other problems that would drag a business into court- like frozen pipes.
  • captaincocaptainco Member Posts: 424
    Did not know there was a law that stated if we find a deadly situation we can do nothing about it. I do know there is a law called the "Wanton Act" that states if we allow someone to be exposed to a hazard we can be charged with endangerment.
    docx
    docx
    Wanton Act.docx
    12K
  • SteamheadSteamhead Member Posts: 12,923
    It's the other way around. In many situations, unless there is a law specifically authorizing it, we don't have that authority.

    I'm not a lawyer, but on the face of it, if an unsafe condition is documented I think we've done all we can if we don't have the authority to disable equipment.
    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
  • captaincocaptainco Member Posts: 424
    The National Fuel Gas Code, not that everyone goes by it, states the agent of the property owner is the authority having jurisdiction in many cases.

    Lets say there is a cracked elbow in the basement leaking gas. The homeowner doesn't want you to fix it. You may or may not call the gas company. There is a small explosion before the gas company gets there. Want to bet who is going to pay the damages.
    Some do and some don't, but in either case we are responsible for the outcome. Also attached is an article that ran in Air Conditioning News a few years ago. Some do and some don't, even those we have trained.

    My personal experience says, "Do you feel lucky?".
    pdf
    pdf
    Code Authority Having Jurisdiction.pdf
    101K
    pdf
    pdf
    CD Red Tag-John Hall.pdf
    337K
  • pecmsgpecmsg Member Posts: 718
    That is why i stated earlier "Notify the local fire department" concerning anything to do with CO.
    We do have the authority to shut the fuel source, inform the homeowner, the fuel supplier and the local FD of a potential CO poisoning!
  • JohnNYJohnNY Member Posts: 2,235
    Let's not misquote my statement. All of us here take our jobs VERY seriously. That's why we're here at this site. I said "let's not take ourselves too seriously". We're not the police. We're not the Dept of Buildings. We're not the Fire Department. That being the case, a *contractor's* "Red Tag" is his own invention having no legal authority whatsoever. A simple notification, acknowledged by the client, is adequate and the same.
    For installations, troubleshooting, and private consulting services, find John "JohnNY" Cataneo here at :
    "72°F Mechanical, LLC"
    Or email John at [email protected]
    John is a professional Master Plumber, licensed by The Department of Buildings of The City of New York, and works extensively in NYC while consulting for clients in and out of state.
  • captaincocaptainco Member Posts: 424
    I am not sure you can call the fire department to a building you don't occupy unless it is vacant. I assume if they don't find anything you are going to get a bill. Historically and nationally fire departments are near the top of my list of the least knowledgeable when it comes to carbon monoxide issues.

    If I walk into a factory and the CO levels are excessive I am not allowed to call OSHA myself. Only someone that works there is allowed.

    Besides it is a sad day when we think the fire department knows more about furnaces, boilers and water heaters than we do.
  • pecmsgpecmsg Member Posts: 718
    Not saying they know more.
    They are the first responders and most if not all on LI carry personal CO monitors calibrated. If they see high readings they do have the authority to shut it down.

    The chief of the Southold Dept stated they would rather be called by us to check rather then when its too late.
  • captaincocaptainco Member Posts: 424
    RI is special. Watching CO poisonings on a national basis every day, I see that more than 50% of the time unsuspecting fireman become victims of CO poisoning responding to these calls. CO poisoning is still the #1 cause of fireman injuries at fires.

    I certainly have read articles stating that HVAC contractors are not smart enough to make their own decisions in the field. I guess this does give us a reason to pass the buck!
  • pecmsgpecmsg Member Posts: 718
    captainco said:

    RI is special. Watching CO poisonings on a national basis every day, I see that more than 50% of the time unsuspecting fireman become victims of CO poisoning responding to these calls. CO poisoning is still the #1 cause of fireman injuries at fires.

    I certainly have read articles stating that HVAC contractors are not smart enough to make their own decisions in the field. I guess this does give us a reason to pass the buck!

    Exactly why personal calibrated CO monitors are being required as standard PPE!

  • captaincocaptainco Member Posts: 424
    What percent of HVAC contractors carry such a device? 1%?
  • pecmsgpecmsg Member Posts: 718
    captainco said:

    What percent of HVAC contractors carry such a device? 1%?

    If you say Safety Equipment / PPE then we should all have one. I know a few tech's that have them.

    The household CO detectors are questionable at best.
  • captaincocaptainco Member Posts: 424
    Just had a student walk into a wholesale house last week and his personal monitor was going off and reading 40 ppm. I think they were offering free CO training - Know the Symptoms! Of course all the guys at the counter were in a bad mood.
  • captaincocaptainco Member Posts: 424
    This story from today confirms what I said about fire departments. Very brave, just not good at CO.
    My son is a captain in the fire department.
    pdf
    pdf
    poisoning NJ school.pdf
    74K
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Member Posts: 10,379
    I've been thinking about this one. More in general, rather than just CO -- although that's bad enough.

    How would a contractor (or, back when I was practicing, a PE) protect one's self from the potential claim of "it was fine before you came" or variations on the theme?

    Perhaps... if one has a suspicion of antagonism from the HO -- or building super, or landlord -- might it be useful to take photos of a bad situation when one first encounters it? Before touching anything at all? I honestly don't know whether it would help a bit -- but in these times of litigious people and slander mongers... it couldn't hurt. Most of us have 'phones of one kind or another which can do that.
    Jamie



    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
  • EBEBRATT-EdEBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 5,706
    I am sure this isn't the perfect answer to every problem that comes along.

    Around here the gas utility has outsorsed their service dept but has "meter technicians" They immediately respond to gas leaks and Co calls.

    To me that's the best approach with an unreasonable homeowner or property manager. Call the gas company and have them RED TAG it

    If the utility red tags it the homeowner can't do anything to the contractor as far as no heat, freeze up etc

    If the building owner is reasonable then you can usually deal with them
  • NY_RobNY_Rob Member Posts: 1,369
    captainco said:

    What percent of HVAC contractors carry such a device? 1%?

    Probably the same 1% that have Combustion Analyzers :(
  • pecmsgpecmsg Member Posts: 718
    NY_Rob said:

    captainco said:

    What percent of HVAC contractors carry such a device? 1%?

    Probably the same 1% that have Combustion Analyzers :(
    I would like to believe a little higher but..........
  • NY_RobNY_Rob Member Posts: 1,369
    edited December 2017
    ^ What's even worse is when you specifically request that the tech brings his CA with him... and they show up without one anyway!
    See this thread for details:
    https://forum.heatinghelp.com/discussion/163709/big-time-carbon-monoxide-scare-and-our-peerless-boiler#latest
  • LanceLance Member Posts: 122
    If we were hired, and received money for this call I am obligated to warn the occupant and or owner and protect my company. I place a warning tag, (verbal is not enough), on the appliance, stating shutoff, left off, due to .... and sign it. Today we document with photo also. We do not disable it but the Owner can turn it back on if they want. This a licensed responsibility in my State of Md. and yet it still leaves the owner in control while relieving us of liability. Why or what the owner does with their property is irrelevant to us. I would not ask who did this or why. I would recommend it be fixed and made safe and offer our services. We would file our documents for future reference.
  • EBEBRATT-EdEBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 5,706
    @Lance , seems like a good reasonable approach. I like it
  • cgdelzellcgdelzell Member Posts: 22
    if someone dies it is negligent homicide.
  • j a_2j a_2 Member Posts: 1,796
    JohnNY said:

    Let's not misquote my statement. All of us here take our jobs VERY seriously. That's why we're here at this site. I said "let's not take ourselves too seriously". We're not the police. We're not the Dept of Buildings. We're not the Fire Department. That being the case, a *contractor's* "Red Tag" is his own invention having no legal authority whatsoever. A simple notification, acknowledged by the client, is adequate and the same.

    I could not agree more..A tennent will have no problem dropping a dime, on a unsafe condition...But a homeowner is different....it’s all about the donaro...homeowners have very convenient hearing...
  • GWGW Member Posts: 3,399
    Wow you must have something in the water down there, :p
    Gary Wilson
    Wilson Services, Inc
    Northampton, MA
    www.wilsonph.com
    [email protected]
  • Mad Dog_2Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 3,455
    We've all been in these aforementioned nasty situations. Everbody has answers and responses that I have employed. I know many of you well and would trust you in my home to keep my own fambly safe when I'm gone. That being said, I would, and have, leaned to the more cautious and some would say aggressive actions (hence, MAD DOG! makes sense now?) Each situation is unique and it depends on how the H.O.rs react to the news. I have had
    Seemingly genuine people swear up and down that they would follow up with corrective action immediately, to have them reverse course an hour later after talking to wife, husband, Uncle Gus. Other times, they beg you to "just leave it on till tommorow, we'll shut it down before we go to bed, ..we have CO detectors!!!!" scenarios. You return the next day and they sheepishly tell you, they know they broke their promise but the kids & family were cold. I found THAT! Chilling. On atleast half a dozen instances I have disabled the "ticking time bomb" on the spot when I could clearly see imminent danger and a flippant attitude. In these cases, I've disconnected and capped the fuel source and removed burner wires. I didn't ask permission. The most contentious time was a runaway steam boiler in a commericial building that was hitting over 30 p.s.i. and relief valve not budging. With the slum lord owner standing there, I pulled the burner wires right off. No shutoff switch! He was furious and ALMOST touched me, but thought better. He screamed and cursed me all the way up the stairs and to the street threatening to sue me..blah blah blah, where I called the gas utility and reported. I waited for an hour till they came and told the responder what transpired. He locked the service and commended me. The next day I called it in to the Bldg Dept. I never got a lawyer's letter or a visit from the PO-PO and didn't care if I did. That was over 12 years ago...SORRY, NOT ON MY WATCH! Just a few years ago, I also "did a favor" like the original poster did. I was asked by my boss at the time to "just take a look"
    At a gas fired furnace at his business associates
    House. If I didn't have my Bacharach Insight combustion analyzer and used it, I would have never known the dire CO problem. On start up within first 5 seconds, this 50 yr old gas furnace
    Was at 2000ppm in the flue. Within 10 seconds it locked out the machine after 4500 or so. I brought them down, showed them Immediately disabled, tagged and explained them they needed to start getting estimates. They were a little shocked, but admitted they never had it serviced and could not deny what they saw with their own eyes. They got a motel for 3 days until it was safely swapped out. $350 bucks, but as my dear friend Mark Hunt says, "it's cheaper than a funeral!." Although initially upset, they thanked me profusely as I left and couldn't believe There was no charge. They were an hour ride each way from me, but I did the right thing
    Morally & ethically by all involved. It felt good. In closing, I don't make a habit of flouting the law, but in some DIRE situations knowing that I could be the last man that stands between death, disaster, and carnage, from a faulty piece of heating equipment, I'll take the consequences and have a clear conscience. Not on my watch! Great topic kids! Respectfully to all. Happy New Year! Mad Dog
    To learn more about this professional, click here to visit their ad in Find A Contractor.
  • captaincocaptainco Member Posts: 424
    Mad Dog you said it all! Heroes rarely have the authority for their actions. They just had good morals and wanted to do the right thing.
  • unclejohnunclejohn Member Posts: 1,365
    I have maybe shut down maybe 2 unsafe furnaces with bad roll out and cracked heat exchangers. I try like all get out to make the furnace safe and leave it on. I have also returned to service 15 or more furnaces that were shut down as unsafe, one for a crack in the orifice plate. Another for a supposed cracked heat ex. The customer came home to her condo to find her heater not working and was told the board was having all furnaces checked. There was not a thing wrong with that furnace. The company told her they would get her a price after all units checked and to use space heaters.
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