FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE  
January 29, 1981  
Release # 81-005
 

WASHINGTON, D.C. (January 29, 1981) -- The manufacturer of "Unitrol" fuel control mechanisms used on certain liquid propane gas water heaters is renewing its efforts to publicize and correct a potential defect which may cause severe burn injuries and death resulting from explosion and fires.

Since 1954, when the fuel controls first were sold to hot water heater manufacturers, there have been at least 48 deaths and 89 severe burn injuries from explosions of water heaters equipped with these gas controls.

The program to replace the old gas controls with new ones is being conducted by the Robertshaw Controls Company of Richmond, Va., in cooperation with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. The manufacturer also is reissuing a national alert to warn consumers of the severe risk posed by continued use of water heaters equipped with the controls.

The warning covers the "Unitrol" model 110 and model 200 gas controls used to regulate the flow of LP (liquid propane) gas to water heaters. These controls, manufactured about 25 years ago by Robertshaw's Grayson Controls division, of Long Beach, California, contain a potentially defective valve which could cause a gas leak and subsequent explosion and fire.

Approximately 1,000 of the potentially defective controls still are believed to be in use nationwide. Many of these controls may be found on water heaters located in rural areas, such as in farm homes, in vacation or weekend homes, or in hunting or fishing camps. (LP gas commonly is used to fuel appliances in rural areas due to the unavailability of natural gas lines.)

The potentially defective controls were sold to approximately 110 water heater manufacturers from December, 1954, through February, 1957. The controls include Unitrol models 110 and 200 showing any date code which includes the letters W or X, or the letter combinations LV, AY, BY or CY.

Consumers can identify the affected units by looking for "Unitrol 110" on the face of the control, or for "Unitrol 200" on the temperature dial on the front of the control. The controls are located near the bottom of the water heater. Date codes are stamped next to the gas pilot outlet which is located on the bottom side of the control and to the right. Use of a small mirror will aid consumers in reading the date code more easily.

In 1974, Robertshaw notified CPSC of the potential defect in the gas controls, and subsequently instituted a program to repair the devices.

Consumers who own LP gas water heaters should check the heater control to determine if a Unitrol model 110 or 200 with a date code mentioned above has been used. If so, consumers then should contact Robertshaw at its toll-free number 800-421-1130. In California call 800-262-1173. Following a free inspection, the firm will install new controls if appropriate.

Anyone wishing to verify the model numbers or the brand name should contact CPSC's toll-free Hotline at 800-638-2772.