Diagnosing heat exchangers can be very 'gray'; with the risk of a carbon monoxide (CO) threat. If you get it wrong the consequences can be months of feeling sick all the time or even death. Imagine dealing with life or death situations on a regular basis
In Heat Exchanger Diagnosis: A Very Difficult Task (Part 1) we discussed 4 common outcomes of diagnosing a cracked heat exchanger
In establishing a company-wide policy, we have had to seriously consider all possible questions and situations that we've run into over the many years of work in the Battle Creek area .
For many of these questions, there is no standard answer. We approach these questions from the position of: “What would I do if it were a family member's home”. From this standpoint, first of all, we want to make sure we do our absolute best in looking for that crack that may be anywhere on the surface of the heating chambers of the heat exchanger. The cracks may be very large and obvious, or they may be just beginning to show and develop. The small ones cause all the controversy. Once a crack is found, we do shut the furnace down. To the best of my knowledge, this is the same policy that the gas company (Consumers Energy) follows.
We do this for two reasons: one for liability and legal reasons, and the second for homeowner safety. We deal with the potential of life and death every day due to carbon monoxide poisoning, and I will do anything to avoid causing physical harm or death to anyone, even if I make them uncomfortable in the process. I know that this may sound over dramatic, but the fact is that some of those questions about cracks and how they grow are unknown. So we choose to error on the side of safety. In our opinion, waiting until carbon monoxide is present in the home before shutting a furnace down is risky for the health of you and your family, we want to stop it before it starts.
Shutting down of the furnace can be viewed by the homeowner in two ways, depending on how much they trust the company involved. If there is minimal trust, it is usually viewed as a scare tactic, if there is a certain level of trust, it is viewed with understanding. That's why we encourage homeowners to build a relationship with an HVAC contractor for the life of home ownership.
What would you do if you were faced with this situation?
We have the greatest respect for people's hard-earned money and being presented with an unexpected expense; and as we indicated these situations can become extremely frustrating and folks can become very upset. Dealing with the safety of you and your family members from the threat of CO poisoning is a big responsibility.
I’ve tried to keep the above discussion as short and condensed as possible. It is a topic that can be talked about at length. I hope it gives you some sense of the safety, legal, and ethical considerations that must be considered in addition to customer relations. The bottom line is that we as a company are very committed to doing what we believe is right and best for the homeowner. I take it very personally when I hear that someone thinks that our company acted in a dishonest or unethical manner. My name is on every truck we have on the road. Our staff wear my name on their shirts and jackets. I want them to be proud of where they work. Sometimes mistakes are made. We've inspected 1000's of heat exchangers over the years, so there will be instances that will need to be addressed on a case by case basis.
The bottom line is that there is great pressure on the honest technician to make sure he is right in his diagnosis 100% of the time without any room for error. An error in either direction can result in an emotionally charged confrontation and damage to the company’s reputation.
If You Ever Have A Concern About This Subject Please Contact Me Personally!