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US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Warns About Defective Furnaces in California

CPSC Warns About Defective Furnaces in California

WASHINGTON, D.C. - 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.

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