What I love most about the home improvement and building industry is that it frequently takes a close look at what it does and evaluates not only common practice, but the use of materials. Recently, Remodeling Magazine, sent out a "heads up" on Corrugated Stainless Steel Tubing (CSST). A product renowned for its versatility and flexibility, CSST has been a popular choice among contractors for running natural gas and propane lines to heaters and other appliances. Now it seems that its best feature, flexibility, may prove to have a dark side.
Ed Voytovich, writing for Remodeling Magazine, says there have been warning signs about CSST's vulnerability to lightening or electrical surges. The tubing can melt, releasing gas into the home, and suddenly you have a ticking bomb on your hands. Propane becomes explosive when it only comprises 2.1 percent of your total air volume.
Contractors have long favored CSST because it installs as easily as does crosslinked polyethylene (PEX), which is the piping of choice for routing water systems. PEX is resistant to corrosion and scale. Now we may have to find a more suitable product for routing gasses.
The Million Dollar CSST Settlement
The Cozen O'Connor Law Firm won a million-dollar-plus liability settlement in Pennsylvania against Omegaflex, one of the top producers of CSST. A jury determined that the manufacturer was liable for damages to a home where lightening damaged the gas lines. Lawyers said that while The National Electric and Fuel Gas Codes address potential damage from stray currents, they don't consider the impact of a surge from indirect lightning strikes.
More than 750 million feet of Omegaflex's TracPipe CSST product has been sold since it came to the market in 1996, according to the law firm. Voinovich writes that as early as 2007, red flags began to appear about CSST. New York State enacted a law that all CSST piping needed to be electrically bonded. Extremely few installations in the state follow that law, according to Voytovich.
A Contractor's "Now What?"
If you're a contractor, start doing your homework on CSST. If you're a homeowner with CSST fittings, it's time to wonder if you need a plumbing contractor to inspect and amend connections to your furnace, hot water heater, and other appliances.
If it turns out that you need to reconsider your water heater entirely, it might be a crossroads where you can consider energy efficient tankless water heaters.
Keep your eye on CSST and recurring articles in the trade media about using it in your home improvements or installations.