Natural Gas Appliances: Selling the Safety Angle
by Sheryl Long
From time to time, technicians will interact with a potential customer who is afraid of natural gas. This fear can have a number of causes, but to make that natural gas appliance sale or installation you need to put that person’s mind at ease.
Make sure you are familiar with the safety standards of our industry and can address any related safety issues that might arise. The safety information below can become a powerful selling tool for closing these sales.
Natural gas safety
The United States’ natural gas pipeline delivery system is one of the safest and most reliable in the world. Extensive industry safety programs are in place and are overseen by state officials and the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Natural gas utilities support the Common Ground Alliance (CGA) whose mission is to reduce damages to underground infrastructure. Since the inception of CGA in 2004, there has been, roughly, a 40 percent reduction in excavation damages to natural gas systems.
Natural gas utilities also have multiple measures in place to ensure the safety of everyone. These measures include built-in system safety mechanisms, regular inspections, operator qualification requirements, and damage prevention and public education programs.
-System flow rate and pressures are continuously monitored to stay within safe operating ranges.
-Mechanical regulators control flow and if pressure rises above a set point, they close off the flow.
-Relief valves are installed on pipelines to vent gas harmlessly if a line becomes overpresurrized.
-Another regulator at the residential meter reduces pressure to under ¼ pound. This is less than the pressure created by a child blowing bubbles through a straw in a glass of milk.
-Pipe and fittings used for natural gas go through extensive inspections at many stages, from the manufacturing process all the way to the actual installation.
-After pipe is installed in a home or business, it is tested at significantly increased pressures beyond normal operations.
-All interior piping work is inspected according to requirements of the Florida Southern Building Code, plus additional local and regional jurisdiction inspections also may apply.
-When the natural gas service is actually turned on, the local utility tests to ensure that the pressure is correct and that there are no leaks in the system.
-Pipelines are surveyed with leak detection equipment at regular federally-specified intervals.
-Gas appliances are approved by nationally recognized testing centers to ensure they meet national safety standards.
Appliance Safety Technology
-Water heaters have a temperature and pressure relief valve as a backup safety feature.
-Water heaters, space heaters and some furnaces are equipped with a valve that automatically shuts off the fuel supply through a flame safeguard control. In other words, if the pilot isn’t burning, the gas flow shuts off.
-Many gas appliances have high temperature switches. If conditions activate these safety controls, the unit shuts down safely.
-Ranges and dryers have electric ignitions. There is no standing pilot, so when the gas is turned on, it is then ignited electronically.
-Most new gas appliances have an automatic flame sensor. If the gas doesn’t light in a certain length of time, the gas flow is shut off.
-Current safety codes require a manual shut-off valve for every appliance.
-All utility personnel and contractors who are licensed to install natural gas lines must have passed stringent qualification programs.
Damage Prevention Programs
–Natural gas utilities provide extensive damage prevention programs and federally mandated pipeline awareness information to the general public. Examples include 811 – Call Before You Dig information, newspaper notices, excavator training, First Responder training, etc.
-Natural gas is an odorless, colorless substance. To guarantee that leaks are noticed, a chemical odorant called mercaptan is added to the gas, which results in a readily identifiable “rotten egg” smell.
-All utilities publicize an emergency leak number where natural gas leaks are given the highest priority.
This basic primer of natural gas safety should cover most questions and issues that technicians come across. Easing the fears of potential customers can definitely help your bottom line. Invest the time to become aware of just how safe natural gas really is.
For more information check out these websites:
FNGA.com (Natural Gas Information/Safety)