CSIA evaluation of after-market parts includes lab tests on fireplaces

The Chimney Safety Institute of America, working in collaboration with the National Chimney Sweep Guild, believes consumer safety is both organizations’ No. 1 priority.

That is why both organizations are reviewing proposed changes to NFPA 211 standards regarding the replacement of original fireplace components with after-market parts.

The changes being considered by the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) 211 Committee potentially limit or restrict what replacement parts can be used by chimney industry companies hired by homeowners with fireplaces.

CSIA’s role, in part, has been to conduct an evaluation, or white paper, regarding these parts.

CSIA began the planning process of creating the white paper in 2013.

The white paper is being assembled by Eric Adair, P.E. of Adair Concepts & Solutions, LLC. Eric is also a Director on the Chimney Safety Institute of America board.

As part of the white paper, CSIA contracted with Intertek, a Wisconsin-based independent testing lab.

CSIA has tasked Intertek to conduct an evaluation of replacement refractory panels, caps and grates in wood-burning fireplaces. Tests include temperature measurement.

“It is impossible to test every possible combination of parts and every scenario, but we are seeking unbiased opinions from Intertek, which is doing testing throughout October,” stated Mark A. Stoner, president of CSIA. “Use of after-market parts on existing fireplaces is common in the industry.”

CSIA’s white paper will raise awareness and assist decision-makers so they are aware of the critical issues involving after-market parts.

“What the white paper is doing is helping to validate what has historically been anecdotal evidence — demonstrating through testing that the appropriate choice of after-market parts would not create a problem,” said Ashley Eldridge, CSIA director of education.

Here are two screengrabs from one of the reports being conducted Intertek on behalf of the Chimney Safety Institute of America.
Here are two screengrabs from one of the reports being conducted by Intertek on behalf of the Chimney Safety Institute of America.

This is the full statement by the NCSG, released Oct. 6, 2014:

“We believe consumer safety is the number one priority regarding this issue – how a restriction of aftermarket parts affects manufacturers or businesses is of secondary importance.

The position of the NCSG is to wait for the completion of the CSIA formal study regarding these parts. If every single aftermarket part turns out to be a safety concern then we will not support their use. If some parts function to the original specifications and are shown to add no more risk than the OEM parts then we are not opposed to their use.

We understand that manufacturers of factory built fireplaces state in their manuals, in general, to only use their listed parts. We understand the need for these manufacturers to limit liability and to provide a consistent product. We also believe there may be a legitimate place for aftermarket products meant to enhance or repair these products which address a different need than limiting liability and which may require separate standards regarding their use.

We note that many factory built fireplace manufacturers have been sold or gone out of business and that this has limited the availability of OEM parts for the portions of their products which wear out quickly relative to the lifetime of the fireplace and chimney such as caps, grates, screens, doors, refractory panels, or other parts.

We believe that not all aftermarket parts are equal in terms of safety risk. For instance a grate or cap built to the same specifications as an OEM part may not constitute a greater safety risk than the OEM part. However a wood burning insert installed in a factory built fireplace may pose a higher risk. That said – We don’t actually know the level of risk associated with replacement parts or add-on parts. If aftermarket parts are allowed, without regulation, then their indiscriminate use may cause a safety concern for consumers. On the other hand, if a blanket statement is issued to prevent all aftermarket parts being used under any circumstance, then a consumer, being told he must replace the entire fireplace every time a replaceable piece wears out, may buy a part that seems reasonable to him and unintentionally create a safety concern.

There are those on the one side of this issue who want a blanket statement which bans all aftermarket parts from being installed unless specifically listed by the manufacturer. They tend to imply that there are many fires or hazardous situations that have occurred, or may occur, from these parts. However, they have not provided evidence that this is the case. On the other side are those who say they have manufactured and installed thousands of aftermarket replacement or enhancement parts with no issues at all. But again, there is no evidence presented.

The CSIA (Chimney Safety Institute of America) has undertaken and financed a study to find these answers. Are all non OEM parts which have not been manufactured or listed by the original manufacturer dangerous? Do some carry greater risk and some pose no more hazard than the original equipment? We believe these are questions which must be answered before codifying one set of criteria.

We invite those in our industry from all sides of this issue to throw their knowledge, statistics, and money into a cooperative effort with CSIA to bring resolution to this issue.”


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