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-   -   LP tank locked out because of non compliance (http://www.diychatroom.com/f7/lp-tank-locked-out-because-non-compliance-178971/)

badtheba 05-06-2013 09:56 PM

LP tank locked out because of non compliance
 
No, I'm not trying to find out how to remove the lock device that my propane company installed, and no I'm not past due on anything. What I'm interested to find out is whether or not they were justified in what they did after a leak test.

Since moving into our house, we have switched propane companies twice due to promotions being offered to new customers. Each time, the guy that dropped and filled the tank has demanded to come in the house to do a leak test and prime the line. Nothing I can't do on my own, having worked for various contractors/builders in the past and being familiar with how things work. Even if the homeowner wants to fight it, they insist they can't turn your gas on unless they check out all your appliances, "for your safety", so nothing blows up while you're on vacation (the story I've been told). Once we ran out of propane on an auto fill program where the company failed to deliver in time. So that's 3 times this indoor/outdoor leak test has been performed in 2 years. Each time the guy that's been in our basement has made mention to me that they could red flag my hot water heater, because the 3 position plastic knob that is pressed down for lighting the pilot has a crack across it. Nothing that affects any lines/fittings or could even be a potential for a leak, just means you have to squeeze it together for the flats to grab the spindle below it. The manufacturer want's about $300 for the entire gas valve assembly, and plumbing supply shops and internet retailers range from $175-300. More than I'm willing to pay on a 13 year old product that functions just fine otherwise.

Fast forward to today, my wife said she could smell propane outside while gardening or eating on the porch, something she's repeated since we last switched companies, and never dealt with before with other companies' tanks or regulators installed. However, we did have a neighbor move a new house in next door, and they get their propane from the same company as we do. I rarely smelled anything, but she has a better nose. So I walk into the propane office and ask if they should send someone out. They get right on it and send out 2 guys in a truck, and they spend almost 2 hours at my place. They check everything outside and ask me if we've ever smelled anything indoors, and I say "never". They replaced the regulator on the outside because they said the brand that was installed was known to have seepage issues. They they say they need to see all my appliances that use gas, same as every other installer has in the past. They take a look at the plastic pilot knob on the water heater and say they have to red flag it and shut off my gas. Also, they checked all the supply pipes coming in from outside and said that some reducer bushings from 3/4" to 1/2", which have been in place for 15 years and obviously passed inspection before, are not up to code (which is really none of their business), and the T's that the reducers come off of will have to be replaced before they will turn it back on.

I know anyone from any propane company will say it's all in the name of safety, but doesn't it seem ridiculous that I'd call for an outdoor odor, when there's no way we'd be smelling indoor leaks from where our tank is, and they demand to see everything indoors and red flag the system for things that are not leaking or even remotely causing leaks? I'm not in the market for a new water heater when I have one that functions. And I'm not looking forward to tearing apart pipes just to put in new T's with 3/4-1/2-1/2 to get rid of reducers.

Can anyone in the industry tell me if they are within the law by shutting me off and locking the tank? From what I've read online I'd be breaking the law in removing the lock myself, but this seems absurd that they wouldn't leave a functioning system intact because of what is almost purely cosmetic. I'll be the first to say I'd need a new tank eventually just because of its age, but this isn't the way I'm comfortable with.

jmon 05-06-2013 10:23 PM

Were not lawyers here and can't really tell you what to do. You will have to ultimately make that decision. We can only give you some suggestions and advice.

Regardless of how you may feel about the whole situation, bottom line, the safety of you and your family is the number one priority.

IMO, I would suck it up, make the appropriate corrections which are red flagging you and be done with it and move forward.

Stay tuned. let's see what the pro's recommend.

TheEplumber 05-06-2013 10:35 PM

As fuel suppliers, they will not deliver to a non-compliant system or appliance.
IMO they are within their rights or are obligated to lock out the tank- and you best not tamper with it.

Alan 05-06-2013 10:35 PM

I don't know about the rest of it but as far as the water heater goes, I could see where that COULD be an issue if somebody meant to turn it to 'OFF' and it didn't turn off like they thought it should....... potential for a problem I guess........

Regardless, 13 years is about the lifespan of a water heater tank anyway. If you're shut off because of the valve, just put in a new heater. It won't be worth changing out the valve when you might get at most 2-3 more years out of that tank anyway.

Reducer bushings are just as good as a properly sized tee, other than the potential for a leak because it's an extra joint. I don't really see the big deal there.

GBrackins 05-06-2013 10:54 PM

they have to come inside and check all pilot lights to ensure they are lit. if not you could have gas entering the dwelling. does not matter what you leave of knowledge is, it is to limit their liability. When I was with the fire department we had that happen one time and when the wife came home and turned on a light the house exploded. Needless to say she did not survive, won't comment on the lawsuit.

I've been on gas for over 35 years, and everything we smell "gas" they've came and checked out everything, including appliances and piping within my dwelling that does not belong to them. I'm on natural gas and their line ends at the meter, but they are the experts and don't want to lose a customer by not taking a few minutes to check everything. One time I had a minor leak in their meter. They shut down my service until they could replace their meter. Better safe than sorry.

I agree with Alan, replace the water heater. new ones are more efficient anyways.

Javiles 05-06-2013 11:19 PM

Theirs a good reason for the water heater and a better one for the fittings get it corrected. seems like your putting a price on your family's safety, i guarantee you if you had a major failure with your gas supply(ier) which resulted in injury's you'd be the first running to see a lawyer. makes no since why people would gripe over something like this. get it fixed..

beenthere 05-06-2013 11:38 PM

Contact the supplier's office and talk to them.

badtheba 05-07-2013 09:26 AM

Thanks everyone.

While I understand that it's safety first, and everything has a useful service life, the reply reply to "suck it up" isn't all that helpful or friendly. What if I have no money? What if I were unable to do any of the work myself? A comparable heater would be between $400-600 and at least that much again for a plumber to install it. To replace 3 black iron T's in an existing system is probably 3-4 hours at ~$100/hr. They did the same tests at tank installation and passed it. Now the company merged with another close by and these guys are from the other company and being brought in, so they probably feel it's the letter of the law or their job.

So to spend $1200-1500 to be in compliance and be without hot water or a decent place to cook or do laundry is more than just "sucking it up", it's paying through the nose for something that hasn't and doesn't present a problem. The suggestion about the knob position and someone else thinking it was off is probably right though.

BTW, I've got a water heater on order through my wife's work, and plan on getting most of this done myself.

edit: I just talked to my plumbing/heating contractor, and he said he's familiar with the service man that came out. He thinks it's ridiculous to shut it off without any leaks, but knows the guy is young and extremely "by the book". Oh well, I'm dealing with it.

badtheba 05-07-2013 09:36 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Javiles (Post 1174138)
Theirs a good reason for the water heater and a better one for the fittings get it corrected. seems like your putting a price on your family's safety, i guarantee you if you had a major failure with your gas supply(ier) which resulted in injury's you'd be the first running to see a lawyer. makes no since why people would gripe over something like this. get it fixed..

I'm not here to argue or fight over fixing things the right way. But although you said there's a better reason for eliminating the reducing bushings, you didn't say what it was. Something that was in place 15 years ago and passed inspection back then really is up to the construction codes office, whether it's grandfathered in or not. If it's grandfathered in, then it's not up to the gas company to enforce current code by shutting it off until I fix it. If it's not grandfathered in, and they legally have to see it corrected, then it's understandable, but you'd think they could give a time limit (10 days is what the cops give you to fix a vehicle's exhaust or lights) to get it fixed, and leave me able to take showers at home. For some reason most of the replies seem to think my basement is filling with gas... Leaks are not the issue.

TheBobmanNH 05-07-2013 09:49 AM

Pfff, safety first.

http://www.mikeroweworks.com/2009/03...-in-the-top-3/

hvac benny 05-07-2013 10:42 AM

I work for my local gas supplier, and its part of my job to identify unsafe appliances/piping and to red tag and shut off if necessary. I see lots of code violations, such as the use of close nipples or street 90s, but usually just point them out to the customer, because ones like that aren't dangerous. I never lock a meter off (unless gas isn't being paid for), all I do is shut off the gas, tag the appliance and explain to the customer why. if they want to turn an unsafe appliance back on, that's not my problem, I've made the situation safe and I'm not a babysitter. I've had a few people tell me that I'm not to shutoff their gas, but guess what? I did anyway because it's my ticket on the line and safety is my priority. If you think the employee acted without cause, contact your local inspector or authority having jurisdiction.

Edit:btw, I've seen lots of hwt with the plastic part of the control knob broken off, and have never shut one off because if it. Generally, those tanks are over ten years old and the customer has already been thinking about replacing it. Not a safety issue on my opinion, especially if there is already a shutoff on the gas piping to the hwt. It's more of an annoyance, because I ALWAYS turn the valve to off instead of on after lighting the pilot. Every. Single. Time.

badtheba 05-07-2013 11:21 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by hvac benny (Post 1174336)
I work for my local gas supplier, and its part of my job to identify unsafe appliances/piping and to red tag and shut off if necessary. I see lots of code violations, such as the use of close nipples or street 90s, but usually just point them out to the customer, because ones like that aren't dangerous. I never lock a meter off (unless gas isn't being paid for), all I do is shut off the gas, tag the appliance and explain to the customer why. if they want to turn an unsafe appliance back on, that's not my problem, I've made the situation safe and I'm not a babysitter. I've had a few people tell me that I'm not to shutoff their gas, but guess what? I did anyway because it's my ticket on the line and safety is my priority. If you think the employee acted without cause, contact your local inspector or authority having jurisdiction.

Edit:btw, I've seen lots of hwt with the plastic part of the control knob broken off, and have never shut one off because if it. Generally, those tanks are over ten years old and the customer has already been thinking about replacing it. Not a safety issue on my opinion, especially if there is already a shutoff on the gas piping to the hwt. It's more of an annoyance, because I ALWAYS turn the valve to off instead of on after lighting the pilot. Every. Single. Time.

Finally someone in the industry that knows what I am saying. Thanks for that. Yes, I do have an in line shut off less than a foot to the left of the water heater. IMHO the cracked knob is purely cosmetic, as it's not directly affecting any pressure "stressed" parts, and I've lived there 3 years knowing how to operate it. After talking to my contractor, he agrees the reducer bushings are not to current code, but assured me that the young guy himself is just extremely strict on following the book. As of now, I'm on my way to getting everything taken care of, but had to order a water heater that will be in Thursday, and then hope when my plumber friend comes to help me install it that he'll have all the pipe pieces we need as well. I created the situation myself by contacting them about the outdoor smell, which both guys smelled when walking up but can't identify any leaks. One of the guys suggested wild catnip or some kind of weeds or onions causing it. At any rate, I'm without hot water and a stove for 4 days to a week because of a call I made, with at least one issue I was already aware of.

jmon 05-07-2013 12:06 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by badtheba (Post 1174364)
Finally someone in the industry that knows what I am saying. Thanks for that. Yes, I do have an in line shut off less than a foot to the left of the water heater. IMHO the cracked knob is purely cosmetic, as it's not directly affecting any pressure "stressed" parts, and I've lived there 3 years knowing how to operate it. After talking to my contractor, he agrees the reducer bushings are not to current code, but assured me that the young guy himself is just extremely strict on following the book. As of now, I'm on my way to getting everything taken care of, but had to order a water heater that will be in Thursday, and then hope when my plumber friend comes to help me install it that he'll have all the pipe pieces we need as well. I created the situation myself by contacting them about the outdoor smell, which both guys smelled when walking up but can't identify any leaks. One of the guys suggested wild catnip or some kind of weeds or onions causing it. At any rate, I'm without hot water and a stove for 4 days to a week because of a call I made, with at least one issue I was already aware of.

Glad you got the situation taken care of badtheba and everything worked out for you in the end. Thanks for sharing your experience with the forum.:thumbsup:

badtheba 05-07-2013 12:21 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by jmon (Post 1174384)
Glad you got the situation taken care of badtheba and everything worked out for you in the end. Thanks for sharing your experience with the forum.:thumbsup:

Thanks, I wasn't trying to be a pain in the butt or suggest I wanted to do anything illegal, just wanted to know if they were obligated to turn it back on if the flagged items were determined not to be a safety or leaking issue. For those suggesting that I was putting a price on the safety of my family... get a life. Who doesn't want to save money, or put off major purchases if they can?

Oso954 05-07-2013 01:05 PM

Quote:

For those suggesting that I was putting a price on the safety of my family... get a life.
"Getting a life" might also mean not answering questions from people like you.
People are taking the time to respond to you.

After you have been on the boards a while, you might see than we have quite a few newbies that come here looking for agreement that what they want to do is OK, and they want to proceed regardless of the advice given. (Not saying that you are in that group). So we tend to take safety real seriously.

A more appropriate reply would have been, "for those concerned with my family's safety, Thank you."


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