Inspecting Houses is a Gas
By Jon Vacha
“CSST gas pipe needs grounding.” Have you ever heard that from a home inspector? Chances are you have, it’s a common home inspection topic. Any house built before 2009 that has CSST (corrugated stainless steel tubing) gas pipe usually has this recommendation on its home inspection report. U.S. model building codes started requiring direct bonding of CSST in 2009. Once the gas system is grounded it helps prevents a possible lightning strike from punching a hole in this thinner gas line material. Black pipe and copper gas piping does not require grounding.
Other than checking to make sure that gas systems are grounded, we pay close attention to the gas lines where they enter gas appliances such as water heaters and furnaces. There should be a section of pipe that extends below the ‘T’ where the gas line enters the appliance. Drip legs are designed to catch moisture or debris that could otherwise make it into the appliances or block the gas line.
But, gas leaks, of course, are what we all want to avoid. Utility companies such as MUD add a harmless chemical called mercaptan to give natural gas a distinctive odor. Most people describe the smell as rotten eggs or hydrogen sulfide like odor. This helps warn an occupant of a leak. Our job as inspectors is to make sure whoever is moving into the house is moving into a safe environment. Gas leaks are not safe to have in a house, so checking for them is one of the most important things we do.
While checking for safety issues during an inspection, we inspectors also have a responsibility not to get hurt ourselves. Climbing around on tall roofs and removing electrical panel covers are some of the more exciting things we do during a day. At our local ASHI meetings held once a month, stories are often shared which usually can provide some sort of a moral. Often advice is given on what NOT to do to avoid injury. One thing I will always remember when it comes to gas safety is that you should never flick on a light switch if you enter a house and smell gas. The little spark inside that switch could ignite a gas filled house. (Luckily, this advice did not come from a first-hand story.)
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