Warning Issued On Furnace Flue-Gas Dampers

February 17, 1977
Release Number: 77-015

The Federal Energy Administration and the Consumer Product Safety Commission today jointly issued a word of caution to American homeowners seeking ways to improve the efficiency of their home-heating systems during the frigid winter of 1977.

Both Agencies expressed concern with the safety problems associated with automatic flue-gas dampers for furnaces.

A flue-gas damper is a device installed in a furnace flue to close automatically whenever the furnace is off, preventing the loss of heated air up the chimney.

Automatic flue-gas dampers, FEA says, if generally adopted, could reduce U.S. oil and gas consumption for space-heating purposes by at least 10%, or an equivalent of 400,000 barrels of oil per day.

However, the possibility exists that improper installation of a damper could result in carbon monoxide poisoning, fire, or explosion, and FEA has requested CPSC to investigate the safety aspects of automatic flue-gas dampers that are currently available for retrofit installation. CPSC has such a study underway which includes other gas energy saving devices as well. FEA, meanwhile, is collecting data on the apparent safe use of dampers in Europe.

Consumers considering installation of a damper now should proceed with caution because (1) there are currently no industry standards for retrofit flue-gas dampers, (2) the dampers lack approval by any national certifying organization, and (3) no widespread training program for installers presently exists.

FEA and CPSC are urging appropriate industry groups and voluntary standard organizations to correct these deficiencies and improve the safety of flue-gas dampers.

For homeowners who decide to buy or have a flue-gas damper installed now, FEA and CPSC make these cautionary recommendations:

(1) Check with local building inspectors or the gas utility to be sure that local regulations permit the installation of dampers.

(2) Obtain the services of a qualified trained installer capable of selecting an intrinsically safe damper compatible with the homeowner's furnace, and installing it properly.

(3) Request an inspection of the completed installation by the building inspector, local gas utility, or fuel oil supplier before putting the furnace back in service.

(4) Under no circumstances should you attempt to install the damper yourself.

The above cautions do not apply to new high efficiency warm air furnaces, or heating boilers having factory-installed automatic flue-gas dampers.

A fact sheet prepared by FFA's Office of Conservation and Environment providing additional information on gas dampers may be obtained from: Federal Energy Administration, Press Room, Room 3138, 12th and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20461

Media Inquiries: (202) 566-9833
Media Contact: Jim Merna
Press Room: 566-9948