Saturday, August 18, 2012

Your Brother-in-law did what?

During my daily visits to area homes I often encounter plumbing and heating systems that have been installed or under-maintained in a way that has rendered them dangerous.  I'm not talking about a dirty furnace filter or a leaky pipe, no. What I'm referencing are situations where a qualified professional should have been hired to perform a job and [most likely] wasn't. Can you think of something in your basement that isn't quite right?  Maybe you had your uncle Ted hook up that clothes dryer when you moved in because he offered his handy work...and it has never worked like the sales guy said it would?  Maybe you or your significant other have taken on the task of installing a new fireplace when you finished the basement? Are you sure everything was installed according to the governing codes?

First and foremost, I only bring this topic up to address the concerns toward something being done in your home that may have the potential to harm you or your family.  In no way am I discounting the ability of anyone who chooses to take on a home project; I am however trying to shed light on the fact that there are some things that should be left to a professional.  If you're mechanical system [duct work or boiler] looks more like something that would be found in Dr. Frankenstein's laboratory after you and your neighbor decided to install a couple extra heat runs for that cold room in the basement, then it may not only be under performing it could also contain some safety concerns. I'll explain.

Often I find myself working in a basement where I will see improper materials used to vent a clothes dryer to the outside. Materials such as plastic venting strung halfway across a basement, making loops and turns a gymnast would be fond of.

 Or, and let's hope you haven't got one of these:
The "Dryer Heat Saver" has been showcased in its various forms and under multiple names all over the internet and on television.  It is not something you want in your laundry room, period.  It's concept is simple; reclaim some of the heat exiting your dryer and use it to heat the room.  An advertisement on the packaging says  "It connects to your dryer vent hose and deflects heat from your dryer into the room rather than wasting it outside.". Let me interject my professional thoughts on this for a line or two. Start rant here: You aren't wasting anything by allowing your dryer exhaust to exit outside, properly, as your dryer manufacturer intended and our Mechanical Code insists upon for your safety.  The very idea that this could be safe negated the understanding that the products of combustion [gas dryer] are not safe to inhale and could cause a fire or even death from carbon monoxide poisoning.  End Rant.  So, if you have one of these please remove it post haste.  Your safety is more important than a couple cents of saving at the end of the month on your gas or electric bill.

Back to the plastic dryer venting.  This stuff for example:
The Minnesota State Mechanical Code  states in section 504 that all dryer venting materials be UL Listed and installed according to the manufacturer's installation guidelines.  Plastic dryer ducting/vent tubes are not UL Listed and never will be.  They are a fire hazard due to their material of construction and their propensity to "clog" up with lint.  I find these all over throughout the metro are and beyond.  If you have one of these, replace it.  You can call a professional such as a plumber or an hvac technician.

You might expect the replacement to be one of these listed products:

Be sure to insist the replacement duct is a UL listed material and is not assembled using screws to hold it together; the screws catch lint and increase the potential of a fire.  Oh, with a duct system installed properly and employing the rigid pipe pictured above your dry time will decrease significantly saving you time and money!

Another are of concern I encounter often, actually, is in the same room.  Washing machine hoses, while may not present direct safety hazards, can cause you very big problems. 
I have seen the aftermath of a failed washing machine hose and let me tell you it's not pretty.  Oh, and they rarely fail when your home and have your tools on the ready with a spare sitting near by.  No, they often do it as the garage door shuts and you and the family are headed up to the cabin for the weekend.  The picture to the left is what I would call a near miss, it was taken before the rubber hose burst.  You can easily see the large bulge in the hose, I've seen hoses the size of a football.  I highly recommend a trip down to your local hardware or big box for a set of stainless steel constructed hoses shown in the next picture.  They'll run you about $20-30 but are worth their weight.
Next time I'll get a little more in-depth on the topic of hazards brought on by non-professionals performing work in your home.  Until then, thanks for taking the time to read this and have a great day!

Eric Aune, 
Aune Plumbing, LLC

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