Furnaces are a common household appliance used for heating the entire home during colder months, as opposed to space heaters which typically heat a room or small area. They may be powered by electricity, oil, or gas. Furnaces, specifically wood-powered furnaces, have been subject to recalls within the last decade. In recent years, some domestically manufactured and imported furnaces have been recalled due to faulty parts including problems such as design flaws or incorrect installations. In some cases, recalls have been attributed to modifications that were designed to improve energy efficiency or to meet new legislature standards, which have resulted in serious hazards to life and property.
Risks from Defective Furnaces
The major risks resulting from defective manufacture and improper assembly and installation of furnaces include two issues. The first involves the risk of fire while the second includes the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide poisoning occurs due to incorrect venting or leaking of pipes, which allows exhaust fumes to leak into homes, rather than being safely vented to the exterior of the buildings. Both of these problems are serious and have resulted in deaths and injuries, as well as financial losses among home owners.
Importance of Recalls
Furnace recalls and the safety issues surrounding the recalls have been featured in the news in the recent months, with several manufacturers alerting customers to possible dangers involving their products. This serves to warn consumers before problems develop and aims to saves lives, prevent injury and property damage.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is responsible for issuing warnings concerning recalls, and makes the information about which models are involved in the recall available to the public. Any concerns about furnace safety may be referred to the CPSC by calling 800 683-2772 or visiting http://cpsc.gov.
Recalls of many products are monitored by the CPSC and are often performed with the cooperation of the company involved in the recall. The CPSC analyzes statements from the companies to determine if a product has been altered in a satisfactory manner, rendering it safe for use. They take public issue with companies seeking to limit their liability and exposure to lawsuits by forcing the companies to make sufficient information available to the public in a timely manner.
Furnace recalls do not always involve a complete replacement of the furnace or total refund of the price paid for the furnace. A partial refund or voucher that can be used towards the purchase of a new furnace can also be an option companies offer, especially if the company is involved in a voluntary recall where no injuries or damage to property occurred.
Replacements of faulty parts at the company’s expense and repair kits which may be installed by the furnace owner’s contractor of choice are common ways companies fulfill their obligations to customers with defective furnaces. The offer of extended warranties to those with furnaces that are still running, and not considered at risk has been popular with some companies, while others arrange inspection by company or local approved maintenance providers. No time limit should apply to any claim made on a furnace listed as a recalled item, since the manufacturers are mandated by U.S. law to replace or repair faulty parts.
Please visit the Furnace Recall page to view which manufacturers have been involved in recalls, how the recalls were conducted by the companies responsible and the results of any litigation following accidents and injuries sustained while using faulty furnaces. Models involved in recalls are listed, including any serial numbers needed to identify those particular furnaces.
The recent furnace recalls have centered around two issues: the tendency of faulty furnaces to cause fires, and the escape of carbon monoxide gas from the units. The first issue is of serious concern to local fire fighting agencies who receive many calls each year to attend home fires caused by faulty furnaces. The following examples of recent recalls demonstrate the safety issues at hand contain some statistics on injuries and loss experienced by consumers.
Consolidated Industries Inc. Furnace Recall
One of the largest recalls of furnaces in recent history involves Consolidated Industries Inc. and the seven firms that sold their furnaces in California. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) mandated a recall of 30,000 of the furnaces sold in California between 1982 and 1994. The furnaces were sold under a variety of different names, including Amana Company, American Standard Inc., Bard Manufacturing, the Trane Company and Goettl Air Conditioning Inc.
Seven of the companies who sold these furnaces under their labels are offering replacements or repair of the furnaces to their customers. Free inspections of furnaces and repairs where necessary are offered under this recall, and some consumers may chose to accept a brand new furnace as a replacement. Installation costs are not covered. Consolidated Industries Inc has since declared bankruptcy and is no longer in business, but is subject to ongoing private litigation, which may provide further compensation for affected customers. No injuries were recorded due to the fires allegedly started by these furnaces.
The problems which prompted a recall of these furnaces include burner and heat exchanger failure, leading to both the possibility of fires and the escape of hazardous gases. As a solution to new legislation controlling emissions, steel bars were fitted at the top of furnaces, causing overheating. More than 50 incidents of fires were reported to the CPSC who responded with a recall notice.
Models involved in the recall are listed under the vendor’s company name
Amana Company, L.P. of Amana, Iowa
Bard Manufacturing, of Bryan, Ohio
Carrier Corporation, (Sunburst) of Syracuse, New York
Carrier Southern of California
HAC 040N (D, E, or F) 3RXC
HAC 050N(D,E, or F)5RXC
HAC 060N(D,E, or F)4RXC
HAC 075N(D,E, or F)4RXC
HAC 080N(D,E, or F)5RXC
HAC 100N(D,E, or F)5RXC
Goettl Air Conditioning Inc, (American Best) of Phoenix, Arizona
Goettl HAC 040N(D,E, or F)3RCX
HAC 050N(D,E, or F)3RCX
HAC 040N(D,E, or F)3RXD
HAC 050N(D,E, or F)3RXD
HAC 040N(D,E, or F)3RXC
HAC 050N(D,E, or F)3RXC
HAC 060N(D,E, or F)4RXC
HAC 075N(D,E, or F)4RXC
HAC 080N(D,E, or F)5RXC
HAC 100N(D,E, or F)5RXC
HCC 040N(D,E, or F)3RX
HCC 050N(D,E, or F)3RX
HCC 060N(D,E, or F)4RX
HCC 075N(D,E, or F)4RX
HCC 100N(D,E, or F)5RX
HBA 040N(D,E, or F)3RX
HBA 060N(D,E, or F)3RX
HBA 080N(D,E, or F)4RX
HBA 100N(D,E, or F)5RX
HBA 120N(D,E, or F)5RX
Goodman Manufacturing Company, (Franklin Electric) of Houston, Texas
HBA 040 ND 3(X, RX, XC or RXC)
HBA 060 ND 3(X, RX, XC or RXC)
HBA 080 ND 4(X, RX, XC or RXC)
HBA 100 ND 5(X, RX, XC or RXC)
HBA 120 ND 5(X, RX, XC or RXC)
HCA 040 ND 3(X, RX, XC or RXC)
HCA 060 ND 3(X, RX, XC or RXC)
HCA 080 ND 4(X, RX, XC or RXC)
HCA 100 ND 5(X, RX, XC or RXC)
HCA 120 ND 5(X, RX, XC or RXC)
HCA 140 ND 5(X, RX, XC or RXC)
HCC 040 ND 3(X, RX, XC or RXC)
HCC 050 ND 3(X, RX, XC or RXC)
HCC 060 ND 4(X, RX, XC or RXC)
HCC 075 ND 4(X, RX, XC or RXC)
HCC 080 ND 5(X, RX, XC or RXC)
HCC 100 ND 5(X, RX, XC or RXC)
Heat Controller Inc, (Comfort-Aire) Jackson, Michigan
The Trane Company, (American Standard) of Tyler, Texas
For more details on specific models involved in this recall, please visit the CPSC’s Web site at
Greenheck Recalls Fan Indirect Gas Fired Furnaces Due to Risk of Fire
This voluntary recall was a joint operation by the company which manufactured the furnaces, Greenbeck, and the CPSC in an effort to reduce any negative effects of the faulty furnaces. Approximately 1,500 units manufactured in the U.S. by the Greenheck Fan Corp, of Schofield, Wisconsin were involved in the recall. The issue was identified as a fault in the ignition system which prevented the furnace from shutting off when high temperatures were present. The risks involved the possibility of fire and dangerous fumes circulating from combustion of insulating materials.
No injuries were reported as a result of this product, and prompt action on the part of the manufacture to contact the affected customers was welcomed by the CPSC and consumers. Repairs have been offered to all customers who purchased furnaces between 2006 and 2007 bearing the model numbers ERCH, IG, PVF, IGXERH and PVFH. To further identify the model numbers, only units with an ignition control number 35-615922-125 are affected.
Northwest Manufacturing Recalls WoodMaster AFS 900 Outdoor Furnaces
This recall concerned an outdoor wood burning furnace sold by Northwest Manufacturing Inc, of Red Lake Falls, Minnesota that was manufactured in the U.S. Approximately 600 units are involved in the recall due to failure of the temperature gauge. This presents a risk of fire, as the fuel storage hopper may ignite, causing injury. Reported injuries were minor, including blisters and small burns which did not need professional medical attention. Customers who purchased Woodmaster furnaces between 2006 and 2009 have been advised to ensure their furnaces do not have the model number is AFS 900, visible on the front of the furnace, next to the company logo. Free repairs are offered to affected customers.
Rheem, Ruud and United Refrigeration Oil-Fired Furnaces Recall
A voluntary recall by the Air Conditioning Department of Rheem Manufacturing Company of Fort Smith, Arkansas involved 14,000 units made in the U.S. The recall affected customers who purchased these furnaces between 2006 and2008. The risk presented by these furnaces involves possible wiring faults which can permit the burner to keep working while switched off. This may lead to overheating of the furnaces and a risk of fire, though no incidents have been reported to date. Only one unit was found to have incorrect wiring. Free inspections and rewiring are offered to affected customers. Models involved in the recall include ROBF, TZODH, ROPF and TZODH.
Furnace Recall Lawsuits
Furnace recall may follow or precede legal action on behalf of homeowners seeking compensation for injuries and loss due to defective products. When a consumer files a lawsuit relating to a defective furnace, it is the lawyer’s job to prove that flaws in the furnaces or negligence on behalf of the manufacturers caused the accident. Often times, many consumers will join together in what is known as a class action lawsuit.
Class Action Lawsuits
Class action lawsuits are an option for consumers seeking compensation for injuries and losses. These lawsuits involve hundreds or thousands of consumers who join together to sue a company. In this way, the numbers of cases can present a pattern of problems, often using information gathered by the CPSC, to gain refunds and a verdict in favor of consumers. These cases often stand a better chance of winning a judgment against companies, but usually result in a smaller amount awarded to each individual joining the case. Some examples of lawsuits and the judgments received, with statistics on the units and the issues involved, are detailed below.
Carrier, Bryant, Day & Night and Payne Furnaces Lawsuit
High energy efficiency furnaces sold by Carrier, Bryant, Day & Night and Payne were found to be defective in a class action lawsuit involving approximately 3 million customers in North America. The judgment was worth over $300 million dollars based on a combination of cash refunds and the cost of extended warranties given to customers.
The design of the furnaces was executed with inadequate materials which lead to furnace failure in a shorter period of time than should be expected. The issue was one of convenience rather than fire or CO2 poisoning, and settled rather quickly. The crux of the argument which won consumers the case was proof that the heat exchangers had been made using a plastic material unsuitable for use in areas of high temperature.
This win resulted in a cash settlement for those with furnaces which had failed as well as the replacement or repair of existing units. Those with furnaces still running received extended 20 year warranties. No injuries or fatalities were experienced by customers who bought the furnaces manufactured from 1989.
Consolidated Inc. Furnaces Lawsuit
Cases against Consolidated Inc. have been pursued since 1999 both in the courts and by the CPSC in an attempt to reach a settlement for the millions of customers who have experienced issues with Consolidated furnaces. The attempted settlement, brokered by the CPSC was hampered and delayed when the company declared bankruptcy. The present settlement offers consumers approximately $300 towards replacing or repairing faulty units.
It is not the first time a company involved in a pending court case has entered bankruptcy proceedings, since the costs of defending a class action lawsuit are very high. Additionally, when a recall is issued, sales of existing products drop, limiting a company’s sales and cash flow. The CPSC will work within the bankruptcy situation to try to reach a settlement in favor of the consumers it represents, but this process usually delays payments to customers while bankruptcy details are processed.
One of the cases against the company involves furnaces manufactured prior to 2001, sold by more than 20 companies which may include defective parts in the expansion joints, burner or heat exchanger.
Another case involves flaws in furnaces with metal bars installed to meet new emissions regulations for California. The CPSC alleges that this addition to existing products was not subjected to the necessary rigorous testing required of furnaces, but rather released for sale to customers, resulting in more than 50 complaints filed relating to fires started by faulty furnaces. The bars installed in Consolidated furnace products did not reduce the emissions, but rather overheated the furnace, leading to flames escaping through cracks in the furnaces, igniting flammable materials such as wood, into the area surrounding furnaces.
Consolidated came under criticism from consumers and fire-fighting agencies for not issuing a recall when the first reports of problems with these furnaces were received. The problem was first identified as early as 1990.
Concerns Prompting Lawsuits
The major issues involving furnace manufacturers in legal proceedings may become lengthy since they involve hundreds of claims for injury and damage to property and may apply to millions of customers, not just the U.S., but Canada as well. The CPSC is committed to pursuing settlements in these cases, because of a rise in deaths associated with fires and carbon monoxide poisonings in the home.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 500 Americans die each year in accidents related to exposure to carbon monoxide. The figures rise in the winter months when furnaces that have remained dormant for months are turned on. In many cases, the advised safety check by an accredited local contractor has not been carried out, so any leaks or other issues have not been identified.
Faulty furnaces may continue to work for years before presenting serious problems, and manufacturers may have gone out of business by the time issues are identified. These factors may delay the possibility of legal action. Some companies are attempting to inform and educate their customers about safety issues regarding their products, and actively cooperate with the CPSC to recall all damaged furnaces, while others seek to delay the process for as long as possible by entering lengthy negotiations or declaring bankruptcy, as was suggested in the Consolidated case.
One innovative solution offered by furnaces companies who have experienced a product recall, but are not currently involved in legal actions, is to offer customers home carbon monoxide monitors, which function much like smoke detectors, alerting homeowners to the presence of the dangerous gas. This aides in restoring the public’s confidence in their products and has been welcomed as a step in the right direction by the SPSC.
Furnace Safety Concerns
All homeowners who have reason to believe that their furnaces may be malfunctioning, whether included on recall lists, or not, are advised by consumer groups to have their furnaces checked regularly and contact the manufacturers for more information, before using the units.
Because of the nature of furnaces, a recall mandated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) that notes a serious fire hazard, is taken very seriously by consumers. Many fires caused by faulty furnaces have been directly attributed to negligence on the part of the manufacturing company.
In response to new laws in California regarding emissions, one furnace company, Consolidated, fitted bars over the flame area, known as “Nox” rods, to reduce emissions of the gas. Unfortunately these rods contributed to furnaces overheating to the extent that some models had flames escaping through the cracks that formed when the metal furnace was distorted by intense heat. These flames set fire to surrounding materials such as the wooden supports that contained the furnaces’ drywall materials and insulation in crawl spaces, as they were often installed in places inaccessible for easy inspection.
The gas-fueled furnaces affected were horizontal units also installed in attics, where the malfunction could not be discovered until a considerable amount of damage had taken place, risking life and property. Some homeowners described the terror of being awoken by flames breaking through their ceilings and barely having time to safely evacuate the house before the fire took hold of all the upstairs rooms, resulting in hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage.
On inspection of the units by esters, it was clear this measure to meet new laws was a hasty addition and not well tested. This gave the customers who took part in the class action lawsuit valuable information which helped them succeed in receiving a favorable verdict.
Carbon Monoxide Leaks
One of the deadliest hazards present in homes, carbon monoxide is a colorless, tasteless gas with no smell to alert people of its presence. Furnaces have systems designed to safely vent carbon monoxide to the outside of a home, where it can dissipate in the air. A furnace which leaks carbon monoxide, such as the one featured in the Consolidated Inc. case, is a silent killer, because those present in a home may suffer symptoms over a period of months without identifying the source.
The poisoning which results is exacerbated by a lack of fresh air in a home, as doors and windows are more likely to remain closed due to cold or hot weather, and sufferers often attribute the symptoms to influenza and remain at home, further exacerbating the problem. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include:
- Difficulty breathing
A recommendation that all homes contain carbon monoxide alarms, which are similar in appearance and function to smoke alarms, has recently become a mandatory requirement in some states.
Are Product Recalls Enough?
When a product such as a furnace is recalled, the manufacturing company will usually offer one of several solutions. The first and most popular with consumers is the offer to replace the unit, or provide the equivalent value in cash towards the purchase of a new furnace. The second is a partial refund, often the resort of a company in financial trouble from problems arising from the recall. Other measures, used where a small or less-significant part is found faulty, include offering free inspections of furnaces and kits to eliminate the problems.
If a company wishes to dispute its liability in the case of accidents and injuries, a court case will result involving large amounts of customers and the relevant government agencies in an attempt to reach a settlement agreed to by all involved. These measures may or may not satisfy a customer, who has experienced a fire in their home or been without heating during winter months. Consumers may then take legal action, separately, or as a group, in an attempt to recoup additional losses.
In a case regarding Carrier and Bryant Condensing Furnaces, the issue was simply that the furnaces did not last as long as they were advertised to last. The issue was remedied by replacement parts and extended warranties.
Unfortunately not all cases are so easily resolved. The serious issue of fire risks and carbon monoxide gas leaks from faulty furnaces has involved certain companies in lengthy and costly legal battles with consumers and the CPSC. Consumer watchdog groups say this can act as a deterrent to manufacturers who are tempted to cut corners in the design, making and installation of furnaces, in the future.
Monitoring Your Furnace
Furnaces are a basic household appliance needed in nearly every state in the U.S. Many homeowners pay little attention to their furnace, except to turn them on and off. To keep the furnace in top operating condition throughout the typical 20 to 30 year life span, it is necessary to know what the correct maintenance procedures are and how to tell if the furnace is running in a way that indicates a problem has developed. Consumers should refer to instruction manuals or contact the manufacturers with any questions, including requests for inspections based on recalls.
If consumers are in doubt as to the safety of their furnaces, the CPSC operates a hotline for information and lists all its product recalls on the home Web site. Since a furnace has potential to cause serious health issues, if malfunctioning, all homeowners are recommended by the CPSC to carry out basic furnace maintenance and conduct frequent assessments performed by certified heating contractors, each year before using their heating systems.