Home tubing creates lightning-induced fire risk

3:15 PM, Jul 8, 2013   |    comments
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ROBBINSDALE, Minn. -- The Minnesota Department of Public Safety is warning homeowners about a potential fire hazard as we head in to the thick of severe weather season.

Without proper installation, corrugated stainless steel tubing can be a fire hazard if lightning strikes near your home.

"Corrugated stainless steel tubing is a relatively new type of gas piping," Reuben Saltzman explained. Saltzman, a well-known home inspector with Structure Tech, writes a weekly blog for the Star Tribune.

"The concern with this material is if it's not properly bonded, a nearby lightning strike could travel along this gas piping and then it could jump to something else that's metal to dissipate that energy, rupturing a hole in the gas pipe," the expert explained.

"It's been highlighted on a nationwide level," Jonathan Wolfgram, Chief Engineer with the Minnesota's Office of Pipeline Safety, told KARE 11.

State Fire Marshals across the country say they're seeing more fires because of improperly installed CSSTs. Most occurred in homes built after 1989 and before 2008, when codes changed.

"It's a problem anywhere, you know, where we have lightning and we have this material. If it's not properly grounded, it can result in a release and a fire," Wolfgram said.

Saltzman says it's something that would have been noticed by a home inspector, but if you're unsure if you have the tubing and if it's installed correctly, go outside and take a look.

"You're looking for a big, thick copper wire, a ground clamp, and it could either be outside at the meter or inside in the furnace room or boiler room," he notes.

It also might not be a bad idea to call an electrician if you're unsure.

The good news, according to Saltzman, is that he's seeing more and more compliance as he makes his rounds as a busy home inspector.

"It's going down. It used to be at least half of them. Today, I'd say maybe 10 percent of the ones I come across are wrong. It seems to be less and less," he concluded.

One common mistake many people make, according to the experts, is confusing the CSST with a gas connector tube for an appliance.

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