CPSC Warns About Defective Furnaces in California

September 27, 2000
Release Number: 00190

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is warning consumers in California that certain gas-fired horizontal forced-air furnaces manufactured by Consolidated Industries (formerly Premier Furnace Company) present a substantial risk of fire. There have been about 30 reports of fires and damage to homes associated with these furnaces, as well as failures of burners and heat exchangers that can lead to fires. The furnaces were installed exclusively in California.

Consolidated manufactured approximately 190,000 of these furnaces from 1983 through 1994 under many different brand names. Most of the furnaces were manufactured under the Premier/Consolidated labels. All of the furnaces can be identified by the fact that they are equipped with steel control rods installed above the burners. These steel rods were required to satisfy California air quality regulations for nitrous oxide emissions.

Many of these furnaces are still in use. Normally, the furnaces are installed in attics, although some may be installed in crawl spaces. The Commission is warning consumers to have their gas-fired furnaces inspected by a licensed heating contractor to determine whether the furnaces are subject to this safety alert. The contractor also should determine whether the burners and/or heat exchangers of units are damaged, or whether wood under or near the furnaces shows signs of damage, such as charring or blackening. If this is the case, the furnace should be replaced immediately or repaired.

Because Consolidated is currently in bankruptcy liquidation, the availability of repair parts is at this time unresolved. However, there is on-going private litigation which could enable consumers to recover at least some of their out-of-pocket expenses for replacement or repair of the furnaces.

Suggestions for improving the fire safety of all horizontal forced-air furnaces in attics are:

- Protect the wood deck or rafters on which the furnace is mounted by covering it with a non-combustible material such as cement board that extends a minimum of 12 inches past the side of the furnace.

- Provide an air space beneath the furnace. A licensed contractor can perform this work and can offer the homeowner several ways to accomplish this.

- Make sure the furnace is installed correctly and serviced at least annually. The inspection should include a safety inspection of the burner assembly and heat exchanger.

- Install an ionization-type smoke detector inside the attic to provide an early warning of smoke or fire.

For additional information, consumers should contact CPSC's toll- free hotline at (800) 638-2772.

 

01/25/2001 UPDATE

01/25/2001 UPDATE

03/06/2002 UPDATE

www.furnacesettlement.com or call toll free 1-800-207-5781. recall listings for July 2001 on this web site. For information concerning other brands and models of private-labeled furnaces, please contact your local distributors of those brands and models.

07/10/2002 UPDATE

www.furnacesettlement.com or call toll free 1-800-207-5781.www.furnaceinspect.com. Consumers should have the brand name, model number and serial number of the furnace available when they call or contact the web site.

 

The following is a copy of a letter sent to Southern California Gas clarifying the Commission's September 27, 2000 press release on horizontal furnaces manufactured by Consolidated Industries/Premier Furnace Company. San Diego Gas and Electric received the same letter, and Pacific Gas and Electric received a copy of the Southern California Gas letter.

(Begin Letter)

November 7, 2000
Mr. David Beliveau
Southern California Gas
55 West Fifth Street
GT28G2
Los Angeles, CA 90013-1011

Dear Mr. Beliveau,

In September, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued a warning that certain gas-fired horizontal forced-air furnaces manufactured by Consolidated Industries /Premier Furnace Company may present a substantial risk of fire. Recently, however, we became aware that, in response to this alert, gas companies may be "red tagging" furnaces unnecessarily. Accordingly, we are issuing this letter to clarify the scope of the Commission's concern.

The safety alert is directed at furnaces equipped with steel "NOx" rods installed above the burners to control the emission of nitrogen oxide compounds. The suffix "X" at the end of the model number designates those furnaces with steel rods. The Commission staff has no reason to believe that furnaces that are not equipped with NOx rods present a risk of fire. Moreover, the data on which we based the safety alert relates to NOx rod furnaces with a rating of 60,000 BTU's or greater. We have not evaluated smaller NOx rod furnaces with a rating of 50,000 BTU's or less, nor are we currently aware of any data that indicate that such smaller units present a risk of fire similar to that associated with the larger units.

Even if a NOx rod furnace is subject to the safety alert, it may continue to be used in the short term if there is no evidence of burner or heat exchanger deterioration and if fire safety improvements are made. Suggestions to improve fire safety are: Make sure the furnace is installed and fired correctly, and serviced at least annually. Annual service should include a safety inspection of the burner assembly and heat exchanger and replacement of any components that show signs of deterioration. If permissible under local codes, remove the NOx rods.

Protect the wood deck or rafters on which the furnace is mounted by 1) placing underneath the furnace a non-combustible material such as cement board that extends a minimum of 12 inches past the side of the furnace, and/or 2) providing an adequate air space between the floor of the furnace and any wood surface on which it is mounted. A licensed contractor can perform this work and can offer the homeowner several ways to accomplish the appropriate remedy or combination of remedies. Install an ionization-type smoke detector inside the attic to provide an early warning of smoke or fire.

I trust that this letter serves to clear up any confusion that the safety alert might have engendered. Please contact me at (301) 504-7914 if you have any questions or need additional information.

Sincerely,

Michael J. Gidding
Attorney, Legal Division, Office of Compliance, Consumer Product Safety Commission

(End Letter)



The following is a copy of a letter sent to Southern California Gas clarifying the Commission's September 27, 2000 press release on horizontal furnaces manufactured by Consolidated Industries/Premier Furnace Company. San Diego Gas and Electric received the same letter, and Pacific Gas and Electric received a copy of the Southern California Gas letter.

(Begin Letter)

November 7, 2000
Mr. David Beliveau
Southern California Gas
55 West Fifth Street
GT28G2
Los Angeles, CA 90013-1011

Dear Mr. Beliveau,

In September, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued a warning that certain gas-fired horizontal forced-air furnaces manufactured by Consolidated Industries /Premier Furnace Company may present a substantial risk of fire. Recently, however, we became aware that, in response to this alert, gas companies may be "red tagging" furnaces unnecessarily. Accordingly, we are issuing this letter to clarify the scope of the Commission's concern.

The safety alert is directed at furnaces equipped with steel "NOx" rods installed above the burners to control the emission of nitrogen oxide compounds. The suffix "X" at the end of the model number designates those furnaces with steel rods. The Commission staff has no reason to believe that furnaces that are not equipped with NOx rods present a risk of fire. Moreover, the data on which we based the safety alert relates to NOx rod furnaces with a rating of 60,000 BTU's or greater. We have not evaluated smaller NOx rod furnaces with a rating of 50,000 BTU's or less, nor are we currently aware of any data that indicate that such smaller units present a risk of fire similar to that associated with the larger units.

Even if a NOx rod furnace is subject to the safety alert, it may continue to be used in the short term if there is no evidence of burner or heat exchanger deterioration and if fire safety improvements are made. Suggestions to improve fire safety are: Make sure the furnace is installed and fired correctly, and serviced at least annually. Annual service should include a safety inspection of the burner assembly and heat exchanger and replacement of any components that show signs of deterioration. If permissible under local codes, remove the NOx rods.

Protect the wood deck or rafters on which the furnace is mounted by 1) placing underneath the furnace a non-combustible material such as cement board that extends a minimum of 12 inches past the side of the furnace, and/or 2) providing an adequate air space between the floor of the furnace and any wood surface on which it is mounted. A licensed contractor can perform this work and can offer the homeowner several ways to accomplish the appropriate remedy or combination of remedies. Install an ionization-type smoke detector inside the attic to provide an early warning of smoke or fire.

I trust that this letter serves to clear up any confusion that the safety alert might have engendered. Please contact me at (301) 504-7914 if you have any questions or need additional information.

Sincerely,

Michael J. Gidding
Attorney, Legal Division, Office of Compliance, Consumer Product Safety Commission

(End Letter)

With respect to 50,000 BTU or less furnaces equipped with NOx rods, while we have not received reports of fires, we have received a few anecdotal reports that the burners and heat exchangers in some units have experienced damage. We have also received information showing that NOx rods cause the burners in horizontal furnaces to experience temperatures greater than those that the metal of the burners can withstand over time. The higher the BTU rating of the furnace, the higher the temperatures to which the burners are exposed and the more rapid is the process of deterioration. The rate at which the furnace is fired and reduced airflow inside the furnace can also exacerbate the process of deterioration. The deterioration of the burners can lead to heat exchanger failure. That failure, in turn, can ultimately result in a risk of fire from flame roll-out through the air intake ports of the furnace or ignition of wood surfaces underneath furnaces that have no air gap or insulating material between the bottoms of the furnaces and those surfaces.

A consumer who has a horizontal furnace equipped with NOx rods should arrange to have it inspected by a licensed heating contractor. The contractor should make sure that the furnace is installed correctly, and that the burners and heat exchanger are in good working order and show no signs of deterioration. If these components show no signs of deterioration, the contractor should remove the NOx rods and make sure that the furnace is fired correctly. Removal of the NOX rods eliminates the components that cause these furnaces to present a risk of fire. It is our understanding that the local air quality districts that enforce the California pollution control laws permit removal of the NOx rods on these furnaces to remediate the risk of fire. As is the case with any furnace, furnaces that have had the NOx rods removed should still be serviced annually. That service should include a safety inspection of the burner assembly and heat exchanger and replacement of any components that show signs of deterioration.

If the burners or heat exchanger of a furnace show signs of deterioration, the damaged parts must be replaced, or the furnace must be replaced. At present, Consolidated Industries, which sold furnaces under the "Consolidated" and "Premier" trade names, is in liquidation in bankruptcy. Replacement parts for furnaces with these trade names may be difficult or impossible to find, in which case the damaged furnaces will have to be replaced. Private class action litigation has now been settled, and consumers who own Consolidated, Premier, Addison, or Weatherking furnaces should contact the settlement web site at

Consolidated also manufactured horizontal furnaces with NOx rods for a number of other manufacturers who then sold those furnaces under their own labels and model numbers. The model numbers of these private label units do not necessarily have the suffix "X" to designate them as having NOx rods. Many of those manufacturers are currently conducting a corrective action program to repair those furnaces. As an alternative, those manufacturers are offering a free furnace to consumers who are willing to pay the cost of installing the furnace. For information on this recall, please check the


 

CPSC Announces Settlement of Private Litigation

Deal Provides Remedies for Owners of Consolidated and Addison/ Weatherking Horizontal Furnaces

Commission Updates Safety Notices Concerning Defective Furnaces in California

Announcement: The Consumer Product Safety Commission is informing consumers that private class action litigation has now been settled, resulting in the creation of a fund to compensate owners of Consolidated and Addison/Weatherking horizontal furnaces equipped with pollution control ("NOx") rods for at least some expenses associated with repairing or replacing the furnaces. Consolidated Industries filed for bankruptcy liquidation in 1999, but a 2000 CPSC web posting noted that on-going private class action litigation could enable owners of Consolidated and Premier NOx rod furnaces to recover some of the costs associated with repair or replacement.

Eligible furnaces manufactured under the Consolidated or Premier labels have model numbers starting with "HAC", "HBA", "HCA", or "HCC" and ending with an "X" in the last three characters (e.g. X, RX, RXC, RXD).

In addition, Addison Products Company, which distributed Consolidated NOx rod furnaces under the Addison and Weatherking brands, has also entered into the class action settlement. Serial numbers on affected Addison/Weatherking units begin with "GHC" and end in either "CC" or "DX."

To obtain more information or to participate in the settlement, consumers who own Consolidated, Premier, Addison, or Weatherking furnaces should contact the settlement web site at

Updated Safety Notice: In September 2000, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a safety alert warning homeowners about a substantial risk of fire associated with horizontal furnaces that Consolidated Industries manufactured from 1983 through 1994. CPSC has received reports of 50 fires associated with the approximately 140,000 affected furnaces. The furnaces involved are gas-fired and equipped with steel pollution control ("NOx") rods installed above the furnace burners. Many furnaces were installed in attics. The great majority of these furnaces were installed in homes in California. Some, however, were installed in homes in Nevada near the California border.

Consolidated sold these furnaces under the Consolidated and Premier brands, and also manufactured them distributors who placed their own brand names on the furnaces. The September announcement and its subsequent updates (available on this "Recall" web site and linked to this announcement) contain a detailed description of the defect, the remedial measures necessary to address the potential fire hazard, and answers to specific questions about the hazard that smaller (50,000BTU or less) furnaces may present.

In July 2001, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission announced that seven private label distributors of these furnaces (Amana, Bard, Carrrier, Goettl, Goodman, Heat Controller, and Trane) were recalling about 30,000 furnaces sold in California. The recall provides generally for free repair of each affected furnace, or a free replacement furnace for consumers who are willing to pay the cost of installation. Some of the distributors used the same model numbers as Consolidated, while others created their own model numbers. The recall announcement (available on this "Recall" web site and linked to this announcement) identifies specific trade names and model numbers covered by the recall. Consumers who have one of these furnaces should call toll-free at (877) 347-6456 or contact the recall web site at