Here's a question for you? What type of pipe carries gas into your home? This isn't Trivial Pursuit; it's actually an important question that many homeowners and interested buyers can't answer. But they ought to know for safety reasons.
"This is an education issue," says Angie Hicks, founder of Angie's List. Her company provides consumer ratings on local service contractors.
"We did an Angie's List poll when we started to look into this issue and [we found that] 44 percent of our members admitted that they don't know what kind of gas lines are coming into their house," says Hicks.
Why is this so important? According to Angie's List, the fire department in Fishers, Indiana -- one of the fastest-growing communities in the nation with the majority of its homes newer -- estimates that half of its reported lightning-related fires result from breached corrugated stainless steel tubing (CSST). These types of pipes have become very popular in the last twenty years.
According to ToolBase Services, since 1989 more than 150 million feet of CSST for gas distribution have been installed in residential, commercial, and industrial structures. The product's usage has been increased in the last several years. ABC News reports that an estimated 2 million homes that these types of pipes in them.
Angie's List writes that, "The cause of CSST-related fires has been attributed to either a lack of, or inadequate, bonding and grounding, which has resulted in arcing damage to the tubing. That may lead to a puncture in the CSST wall, causing gas leakage."
The very thing that makes the product popular also causes it to be more dangerous especially when not properly installed. CSST is thin and therefore electrical energy tends to linger longer. That energy seeks to escape through the easiest path such as by blowing out a hole in the gas tube and igniting a fire.
Hicks witnessed this in her Indiana neighborhood. A nearby house burned down because of this type of incident. "The lightning when it struck the house penetrated that line and caused a gas fire," says Hicks.
CSST is more common in homes that have been built or remodeled since 1988. "About half of the new homes built each year contain it," says Hicks. However, just because a home has CSST doesn't necessarily mean that there will be problems. The key is to know what type of pipes are used and if they've been installed correctly.
"You should have your home inspected and check to see that the lines are grounded properly; that is the key here. It's not that you can't have a CSST line. In fact, the American National Standards Institute regulates these lines -- having them is fine, it's just ensuring that they're grounded properly," explains Hicks.
She says, "You need to have someone who is licensed and certified in handling CSST installation. The interesting thing is that industry standards changed in early 2007 in regards to handling CSST. After a class action lawsuit was settled, now only licensed electricians and plumbers certified in CSST are supposed to bond and ground the product," says Hicks.
"You need someone experienced to handle this," cautions Hicks.
Makers of CSST say the product is safe when it is properly installed.