Another Sad Story

Some of you who are from the state of Rhode Island may remember the recent sad story of a family who died from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by a faulty gas heating system. This story drew so much attention that the governor of this state ordered a full scale investigation as to why this happened. I think for most of the trade people the first question that came to mind was who installed the unit. Who’s to blame?

As the investigation got underway the entire heating system was ordered to be removed for an inspection. The inspection was to be performed by heating system experts, and a report was to be made available to the public. To answer some of the questions, it seems that the system was used and, as figured, was not installed by a professionally licensed contractor. Apparently it was an attempted good deed gone wrong.

So I, like many of you, asked myself how and why this happened. My immediate thought was possibly money as the price of fuel in all areas keeps rising. For example, 180 gallons of fuel oil at $3.49 is $682.20, and I, like many, feel that pain. Then if we take the average boiler replacement of $4,000 to $5,000 we may come to realize how this actually could happen.

In the area of fuel costs, keep in mind that other heating fuels are just as high as or even higher than fuel oil. In the state of Connecticut, I recently saw a propane bill that was sent to a 70-plus year old person that was over $4.00 per gallon. I also spoke with a working lady whose husband is blind that received a $700 electric bill for the month of December for her all-electric home. So again, it might be cost related issues for poorly maintained and outdated equipment that can lead to the both death and the destruction of property.

So what can be done to reduce these incidents? My first thought is to have our service technicians put on their Sherlock Holmes hats and look for these unsafe conditions and installations that are not properly installed by a professionally trained and licensed contractor. Also, listen to the customer. The technician or sales person can learn a lot from some of these conversations. And while in a conversation, ask ‘Do you have a carbon monoxide detector?” Some might wonder why we need to ask this because, after all, we are oil people. Well, today many homes are also multi-fuel burning homes. I know that when times are tough, technicians hear all the reasons why a bad system should be patched or left running and no one wants to be labeled the bad guy, but safety always comes first even if it means losing an account.

There are several helpful resources for people in need and often overlooked. There are organizations that can help find ways to get low-interest funding for heating system replacements if money is the true issue. Another active group is an organization that I have been a proud member of for many years, the National Oil Heat Service Managers Association. This group has several resources spread throughout many states where poor and unsafe oil heating conditions have been eliminated with their support. You will see pictures and stories in trade magazines where competing contractors and wholesalers have banded together providing both volunteer labor and donated heating equipment to help keep our citizens both safe and warm during these difficult times, and remember that ‘Oil Heat Cares.” Visit to find out more.

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