Film-Tech Cinema Systems
Film-Tech Forum


Post New Topic  Post A Reply
my profile | my password | register | search | faq & rules | forum home
  next oldest topic   next newest topic
» Film-Tech Forum   » Community   » Film-Yak   » Plumbing error -- who's at fault?

   
Author Topic: Plumbing error -- who's at fault?
Frank Cox
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1908
From: Melville Saskatchewan Canada
Registered: Apr 2011


 - posted 08-19-2016 12:59 PM      Profile for Frank Cox   Author's Homepage   Email Frank Cox   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
In mid-2014 my water heater quit so I got one of the new tankless Rinnai models, thinking that it will last longer with no tank to rot out and start leaking, plus it will use less natural gas to operate being a high-efficiency unit.

If I knew then what I know now, I would never have bought this thing and saved myself a lot of money and aggravation.

A while back I started to smell what I was pretty sure was the exhaust gases near that unit when I walked past it. After having it checked a few times (and being told that I was wrong about there being any problem at least once) the plumbers finally determined that due to condensate dripping back into the unit, the heat exchanger had cracked and yes indeed, exhaust gases were getting back into the building.

After further investigation, it was determined that Rinnai has made an unannounced change in their instruction manual and the allowed venting diagram that was in the 2014 manual is now completely different in the 2016 manual (for exactly the same unit) and the way that they installed the unit is no longer allowed in the current manual.

So... Rinnai supplied a new heat exchanger at no cost and the plumbers installed that in the water heater and re-worked the exhaust system to meet the new requirements.

But now they have sent me a bill for over $700 for labour for troubleshooting and repairs. I phoned them yesterday to discuss this and the guy that I talked to said, "Well, we installed it according to the instructions at that time so it's not our fault." I agree, but the unit was improperly installed and while it may not be their fault, it's not my fault either and I don't think it's reasonable that I should have to pay for the labour to repair a faulty installation in any event.

I'm not the one who deals with Rinnai; they are. I'm dealing with them and whatever goes back and forth between them and Rinnai is their business, not mine.

I ultimately told him that if he really insists that I pay this bill I will, but I'm going to be extremely unhappy if that's the case. He told me that he will talk to Rinnai some more and get back to me.

Frankly, I'm already unhappy that I have even had to argue this point with them. When I first received this invoice, I assumed it had been issued in error and that my phone call would result in a quick, "Oops, sorry about that, Chief!"

Imagine my surprise....

Am I being unreasonable here? Unfortunately, plumbers aren't an easy-to-obtain commodity here and switching to a different one may not be a particularly easy thing to do.

 |  IP: Logged

Rick Raskin
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1081
From: Manassas Virginia
Registered: Jan 2003


 - posted 08-19-2016 01:12 PM      Profile for Rick Raskin   Email Rick Raskin   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
You are not being unreasonable at all. The manufacturer should bear the cost of the rework because it was a fault in their initial product manual, and they did supply you with a replacement part.

Think of it as being similar to an automotive recall.

 |  IP: Logged

Mike Blakesley
Film God

Posts: 12331
From: Forsyth, Montana
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 08-19-2016 01:21 PM      Profile for Mike Blakesley   Author's Homepage   Email Mike Blakesley   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
The question is whether the installer has talked to the manufacturer AT ALL at this point. If they made an "unannounced" change to their product, it should be on them for sure but the dealer would need to start the process, not you.

 |  IP: Logged

Mitchell Dvoskin
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1818
From: West Milford, NJ, USA
Registered: Jan 2001


 - posted 08-19-2016 03:23 PM      Profile for Mitchell Dvoskin   Email Mitchell Dvoskin   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Did you get a manufacturer's warranty with it?

While I agree that the plumber who sold this to you should be the one to contact the manufacturer, there is nothing to stop you from contacting them directly. Even if the unit is out of warranty, they should, and here in most of the USA would be required to stand by their product if the failure was caused by their faulty installation instructions.

That said, if it comes down to it, you may want to remind the plumber that you own a theatre and that you would have no problem displaying on screen before every show that they do not stand behind the products they sell.

 |  IP: Logged

Randy Stankey
Film God

Posts: 6403
From: Erie, Pennsylvania
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 08-19-2016 03:32 PM      Profile for Randy Stankey   Email Randy Stankey   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Mitchell Dvoskin
That said, if it comes down to it, you may want to remind the plumber that you own a theatre and that you would have no problem displaying on screen before every show that they do not stand behind the products they sell.
You might also want to remind the plumber AND the manufacturer that they have sold you a product which is potentially pumping carbon monoxide into a building where the public is invited.

If I was in your place, I'd be telling them that you want them to buy you a new water heater... the regular kind. Not the silly tankless kind.

 |  IP: Logged

Steve Guttag
We forgot the crackers Gromit!!!

Posts: 12053
From: Annapolis, MD
Registered: Dec 1999


 - posted 08-19-2016 04:25 PM      Profile for Steve Guttag   Email Steve Guttag   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
If a manufacturer specifies how a product is to be put in, it is incumbent upon the installer to adhere to those instructions or bear full responsibility for any problems that arise.

If the plumbers followed the instructions then it is in NO WAY their fault.

I would think that a serious defect like this would be something were the manufacturer should be compelled to cover the expense of correcting. But they are the ones truly responsible.

 |  IP: Logged

Frank Cox
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1908
From: Melville Saskatchewan Canada
Registered: Apr 2011


 - posted 08-19-2016 05:06 PM      Profile for Frank Cox   Author's Homepage   Email Frank Cox   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I have already told my wife that if this water heater continues to be a problem we will get rid of it and go back to a regular one. As you folks have pointed out, if it's allowing exhaust gases into the building it's a health hazard.

Again, if I had known then what I know now I would never have purchased this thing. But at the time, it seemed like the thing to get. Uses less natural gas, lasts longer. What's not to like about that?

Unfortunately, going back to a regular water heater will be a really expensive proposition since the gas service for it was moved to the other side of the building for the new tankless unit and the chimney liner was removed and the chimney was capped to keep the cold out in the winter. It used to service both the boiler and the water heater but since I now have a high-efficiency boiler and water heater the chimney was no longer required. So going back to a regular water heater will require moving the gas service again and re-opening and re-lining the chimney, plus obtaining and installing the actual water heater and attaching it to the water lines.

In hindsight, I should have just replaced the old water heater with a new one of the same type that would have sat in the same place. The final cost would have been a small fraction of what I have paid for this high efficiency tankless unit and the aggravation factor would be a lot less too.

 |  IP: Logged

Steve Guttag
We forgot the crackers Gromit!!!

Posts: 12053
From: Annapolis, MD
Registered: Dec 1999


 - posted 08-19-2016 05:48 PM      Profile for Steve Guttag   Email Steve Guttag   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I think you may be throwing out the baby with the HOT bath water. Tankless is still a valid way to go. I think long-term that is the way all gas based hot water are going to go.

 |  IP: Logged

Justin Hamaker
Film God

Posts: 2080
From: Lakeport, CA USA
Registered: Jan 2004


 - posted 08-19-2016 07:18 PM      Profile for Justin Hamaker   Author's Homepage   Email Justin Hamaker   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Sounds to me like a fairly straightforward product liability case. The fact they changed their installation instruction indicates they knew there was a problem. Since you hired the plumber, and the plumber followed manufacturer's instructions, then liability would seem to fall back on the manufacturer. I'm guessing that it probably is on you to see compensation since you hired the plumber, not the manufacturer.

 |  IP: Logged

Randy Stankey
Film God

Posts: 6403
From: Erie, Pennsylvania
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 08-19-2016 07:58 PM      Profile for Randy Stankey   Email Randy Stankey   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Justin Hamaker
Sounds to me like a fairly straightforward product liability case.
I agree with that.

Instead of issuing a recall on the defective product, the manufacturer quietly issued new installation instructions which left previous customers who followed the manufacturers original instructions in a potentially lethal situation.

That's low! REALLY low!

Maybe Frank and his plumber could team up against the manufacturer.
If not for Frank's attention to detail, there would still be a potentially lethal carbon dioxide leak in his building. If not for the plumber's attention to detail, the manufacturer's defect would not have come to light.

I think that both Frank and the plumber are the victims of an unscrupulous product manufacturer. How many more people bought this same unit? How many people still have defective units like this one in their homes and businesses? How many of those people don't know that the manufacturer has issued an update to the installation instructions?

All of those people are in danger of suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning!

The manufacturer should be forced to issue a recall and pay for all or part of the cost to make their products safe!

 |  IP: Logged

Paul H. Rayton
Expert Film Handler

Posts: 202
From: Los Angeles, CA , USA
Registered: Aug 2003


 - posted 08-19-2016 09:17 PM      Profile for Paul H. Rayton     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Agreed with those above who feel that the responsibility rests with the manufacturer. Your error, such as it was, was to contact your plumber for the install of the revised vent system before getting approval from the mfr. I know several product mfr. who will take returns, but not just "willy-nilly", they require that any return shipment be authorized and bear some kind of RMA (Return Merchandise Authorization) tag -- or they'll refuse the shipment. (Dolby, for example, does this, for the theatrical equipment we use.) So it's helpful to get the manufacturer on the hook before calling in the workers.

So now, ask your plumbers who, specifically, they contacted at Rinnai. I'm from the school of thought that perseverance is necessary sometimes, so if your plumbers don't get a direct (and positive) response from Rinnai, then you need to up the ante yourself and really chase 'em down, right at the source. And read them the riot act, about how they specifically instructed you to install something in an unsafe manner -- instructions which you followed precisely -- and you were then left with a serious public health liability. But then, they subsequently corrected the installation instructions but somehow apparently saw fit to try to keep those safety revisions a secret from all the original owners who were at risk. Tell 'em that sounds like a lawsuit to you (sorry, yes, a very American thing to say, but jeez, what they did to you is pathetic!).

I've also heard that there have some automotive recall issues that don't get big press, but apparently they are non-critical items, which thus may or may not get corrected. Can't remember the terminology, was it "pocket recalls" or some such?

Anyway, in the US, I'd think that either the CPSC or OSHA (Consumer Products Safety Commission, or Occupational Safety & Health Administration) might be very interested in pursuing the issue at an "official" level. Not sure which agency might be relevant there in Canada, but for $700 out of your pocket, it's worth doing a bit of digging and persevering!

FWIW, a few years ago, we purchased a set of solar panels for our home. About a month after the installation, we got a message from the manufacturer informing us that the CPSC had discovered an issue having to do with the installation in some locations, and there was a potential fire hazard in "some" places. The request was: would we please turn the system off immediately until they could get here to check it and fix it, if necessary. But wait: there's more! In the meantime, until they could get here, they volunteered to PAY OUR FULL ELECTRIC BILL. And they were good to their word. The repair crew got here about 8 months later, fixed a few spots of problematic wiring up on the roof, and we've been solarized ever since with no problems (knock on wood). But that solar company acted in what I'd call true good faith, which Rinnai sure doesn't seem to comprehend.

The problem here wasn't the panels, per se, it was the installation job, which lends itself somewhat to your situation. It seems that some installers (electricians) managed to set the panels into place on some roofs such that a few of the interpanel wires could get pinched. Maybe a bit more liability than plain ol' carbon monoxide potentially suffocating 150 people viewing a movie in a theater, but still, Rinnai's apparent attitude there defies comprehension.

Keep us informed as this little saga plays out!

 |  IP: Logged

Frank Cox
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1908
From: Melville Saskatchewan Canada
Registered: Apr 2011


 - posted 08-19-2016 09:57 PM      Profile for Frank Cox   Author's Homepage   Email Frank Cox   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Why in the world would I contact Rinnai or anyone else other than the plumbers who supplied and installed the water heater?

When my old water heater quit, I said "Howzabout one of those fancy high efficiency units?" They said, "We have this one here." They installed it, gave me a bill for materials and labour, and paid I them.

Until all of this started, I had never looked at the installation instructions for that water heater. Why would I? I'm neither a plumber or a gas fitter -- that's why I paid those guys to do.

My dealings with Rinnai to date are exactly zero. I don't think it's reasonable that the plumbers expect me to pay a labour bill to repair a faulty installation. As to who pays them, that's something for them to fight out between themselves and Rennai; it has nothing to do with me and I shouldn't have to care about that.

The only reason that I know the installation instructions were changed is because the plumbers told me that. But again, that's nothing to do with me.

I have exactly zero interest in confronting or suing anyone over this issue. I simply don't think I should be expected to pay a $700 labour bill to fix a faulty installation, regardless of who's ultimately at fault. Who's at fault is not me, anything further down the food chain from there is or beyond the scope of my concern.

I was and remain surprised that the plumbers don't seem to understand that. Based on my conversation with them, they honestly seem to believe that "standing behind our work and the products that we sell" means "we'll make it right and bill you for the labour involved in fixing it".

 |  IP: Logged

Mike Blakesley
Film God

Posts: 12331
From: Forsyth, Montana
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 08-19-2016 11:35 PM      Profile for Mike Blakesley   Author's Homepage   Email Mike Blakesley   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Well there are a few unanswered questions here.

1. Was there REALLY a change in the install instructions, or did the plumbers tell you that to get around the fact that they did it wrong? I can tell you, any time there is any kind of change along this line, every dealer involved WILL get a communication -- usually a letter, or a bulletin from their own supplier. Here in the car parts biz, we get letters and bulletins like this every now and then -- but in our case it's usually due to the fact they found a defective or mis-packaged item. You're dealing with CO2 -- no responsible manufacturer would just make a change of this magnitude and hope everything would be OK.

2. We still don't know if the plumbers REALLY contacted the manufacturer, or if they're just telling you that they did. It's entirely possible that the plumbers screwed it up initially because they didn't happen to see the bulletin detailing the changed instrutions...or they did see it, but forgot about it or ignored it...and now they're trying to pin it on you.

So it's worth going to whatever length necessary to find out who's at fault...but I'm betting the installers screwed up, and the manufacturer has its ass covered tightly. That's why they have highly-paid corporate lawyers on retainer.

Either way, the one person who should NOT have to pay up is you....you paid already for a job to be done correctly and that's what you should be getting.

I can tell you from experience however...big companies don't really like to write checks to the end consumer. They'd much rather pay their dealer, and the dealer (the plumber) should then reimburse you. In my case here, we are a Carquset dealer and have had lots of "claims" over the years for defective products, labor claims and whatnot, but we've never received a check from Carquest itself -- it's always a credit from our regional warehouse. It just makes the bookkeeping lighter on everyone that way.

 |  IP: Logged

Frank Cox
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1908
From: Melville Saskatchewan Canada
Registered: Apr 2011


 - posted 09-29-2016 11:50 AM      Profile for Frank Cox   Author's Homepage   Email Frank Cox   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
After however-many weeks of hearing nothing at all, I received an email this morning from the person who does the accounting at the plumbers stating that they have credited back the two outstanding invoices and there is nothing left owing on my account.

All's well that ends well, I guess, but I still don't think I should have had to fight with them over this matter to get it resolved.

 |  IP: Logged

Jack Ondracek
Film God

Posts: 2286
From: Port Orchard, WA, USA
Registered: Oct 2002


 - posted 09-29-2016 12:03 PM      Profile for Jack Ondracek   Author's Homepage   Email Jack Ondracek   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Randy Stankey
If I was in your place, I'd be telling them that you want them to buy you a new water heater... the regular kind. Not the silly tankless kind.


We're pretty much sold on the tankless heaters we put in our drive-in.

When we bought the place, there was an 80-gallon electric here. Our business eventually grew to the point that just the bathroom users had us out of hot water before show time. The health dept didn't care for that much, as our kitchen gets its hot water from the same tank.

We put in 2 Rinnai propane heaters & plumbed them together. No problems & we've never run out of hot water since they were installed.

I did install a little, 5-gallon electric inline with the propane units. It buffers the small time delay between when you turn on the hot water and the system actually starts producing it. That time seems to be a little longer than with electric tankless heaters.

 |  IP: Logged



All times are Central (GMT -6:00)  
Post New Topic  Post A Reply Close Topic    Move Topic    Delete Topic    next oldest topic   next newest topic
 - Printer-friendly view of this topic
Hop To:



Powered by Infopop Corporation
UBB.classicTM 6.3.1.2

The Film-Tech Forums are designed for various members related to the cinema industry to express their opinions, viewpoints and testimonials on various products, services and events based upon speculation, personal knowledge and factual information through use, therefore all views represented here allow no liability upon the publishers of this web site and the owners of said views assume no liability for any ill will resulting from these postings. The posts made here are for educational as well as entertainment purposes and as such anyone viewing this portion of the website must accept these views as statements of the author of that opinion and agrees to release the authors from any and all liability.

© 1999-2018 Film-Tech Cinema Systems, LLC. All rights reserved.