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AFUE DEFINITION, RATINGS
AGE of AIR CONDITIONERS & HEAT PUMPS
AGE of HEATERS, BOILERS, FURNACES
AIR CONDITIONING & HEAT PUMP SYSTEMS
AIR FILTERS for HVAC SYSTEMS
AIR HANDLER / BLOWER UNITS
AIRBOUND HEAT SYSTEM REPAIR by WATER FEED VALVE
ANODES & DIP TUBES on WATER HEATERS
ANTIFREEZE for BOILERS
ANTI SCALD VALVES
APPLIANCE DIAGNOSIS & REPAIR
APPLIANCE EFFICIENCY RATINGS
ASBESTOS IDENTIFICATION IN buildings
BACKDRAFTING HEATING EQUIPMENT
BACKFLOW PREVENTER VALVE, HEATING SYS
BACKFLOW PREVENTER, HEATER WATER FEEDER
BACKUP HEAT for HEAT PUMPS
BIOGAS PRODUCTION & USE
BLOWER DOORS & AIR INFILTRATION
BLOWER FAN CONTINUOUS OPERATION
BLOWER FAN OPERATION & TESTING
BLUE vs YELLOW COMBUSTION FLAMES
BOILER LEAKS CORROSION STAINS
BOILER LEAKS, HOW TO LOCATE
BOILER NOISE SMOKE ODORS
BOILER OPERATING PROBLEMS
BOILER OPERATING STEPS
BOILER PRESSURE & TEMPERATURE SETTINGS
BOOKSTORE - InspectAPedia
BTU USAGE MONITORS
BUILDING SAFETY HAZARDS GUIDE
CAPACITORS for HARD STARTING MOTORS
CARBON DIOXIDE - CO2
CARBON MONOXIDE - CO
CHEMICAL TREATMENTS for BOILERS
CHIMNEY INSPECTION DIAGNOSIS REPAIR
CHIMNEYS & Flues - Asbestos Transite Pipe
CHINESE DRYWALL HAZARDS
CIRCULATOR PUMPS & RELAYS
COOL OFF HEAT, Thermostat Switch
COMBUSTION PRODUCTS & IAQ
COMPLETE COMBUSTION, Stoichiometric
CREOSOTE FIRE HAZARDS
Curved Brick Chimneys - Sulphation
CONDENSING BOILERS/FURNACES DAMAGE
CONVECTOR HEATERS - HYDRONIC COILS
DEFINITION of HEATING & COOLING TERMS
DIAGNOSTIC GUIDES A/C / HEAT PUMP
DIAGNOSE & FIX HEATING PROBLEMS-BOILER
DIAGNOSE & FIX HEATING PROBLEMS-FURNACE
DIRECT VENTS / SIDE WALL VENTS
DIRECTORY of OIL TANK EXPERTS
DRAFT HOODS - gas fired
DRAFT MEASUREMENT, CHIMNEYS & FLUES
DRAFT REGULATORS, DAMPERS, BOOSTERS
DUCT SYSTEM & DUCT DEFECTS
DUST, HVAC CONTAMINATION STUDY
DUST SAMPLING PROCEDURE
ELECTRIC MOTOR DIAGNOSTIC GUIDE
ELECTRIC MOTOR OVERLOAD RESET SWITCH
ELECTRICAL POWER SWITCH FOR HEAT
EVAPORATIVE COOLING SYSTEMS
FAN, AIR HANDLER BLOWER UNIT
FAN AUTO ON Thermostat Switch
FAN, COMPRESSOR/CONDENSER UNIT
FAN CONVECTOR HEATERS - HYDRONIC COILS
FAN LIMIT SWITCH
FILTERS, AIR for HVAC SYSTEMS
FILTERS, OIL on HEATING EQUIPMENT
FIRE SAFETY CONTROLS
FIREPLACES & HEARTHS
FLAME COLOR, BLUE vs YELLOW COMBUSTION
FLOODED HEATING EQUIPMENT REPAIR
FLOODED WATER HEATER REPAIR
FLUE VENT CONNECTORS
FREEZE-PROOF A BUILDING
FUEL OIL TYPES & CHARACTERISTICS
FUEL UNIT, HEATING OIL PUMPS
FURNACE CONTROLS & SWITCHES
FURNACE EFFICIENCY, HIGH vs MID
FURNACE HEAT EXCHANGER LEAKS
FURNACE OPERATION DETAILS
FURNACE OPERATING TEMPERATURES
GALVANIC SCALE & METAL CORROSION
GAS BURNER Flame & Noise Defects
GAS FIRED WATER HEATERS
GAS PIPING, VALVES, CONTROLS
GAUGES ON HEATING EQUIPMENT
HEAT LOSS in BUILDINGS
HEAT LOSS DETECTION TOOLS
HEAT LOSS INDICATORS
HEAT LOSS PREVENTION PRIORITIES
HEAT LOSS R U & K VALUE CALCULATION
HEAT PUMPS, DIAGNOSIS, REPAIR
HEAT TAPES & CABLES on Roofs for Ice Dams
HEATING COST FUEL & BTU Cost Table
HEATING COST SAVINGS METHODS
HEATING LOSS DIAGNOSIS-BOILERS
HEATING LOSS DIAGNOSIS-FURNACES
HEATING OIL CLOUD WAX GEL POINT
HEATING OIL EXPOSURE HAZARDS, LIMITS
HEATING OIL - OLD, USEABLE?
HEATING OIL PIPING TROUBLES
HEATING OIL SHELF LIFE
HEATING OIL SLUDGE
HEATING OIL USAGE RATE
HEATING SMALL LOADS
HEATING SYSTEM INSPECT DIAGNOSE REPAIR
HEATING SYSTEM INSPECTION DETAILS
HEATING SYSTEM NOISES
HEATING SYSTEM TYPES
HOT WATER HEATERS
HOT WATER IMPROVEMENT
INSULATION INSPECTION & IMPROVEMENT
LOW VOLTAGE BUILDING WIRING
LOW VOLTAGE TRANSFORMER TEST
GAS LP & NATURAL GAS SAFETY HAZARDS
MANUALS & PARTS GUIDES - HVAC
MIXING / ANTI-SCALD VALVES
NO HEAT - BOILER
NO HEAT - FURNACE
NOISE / SOUND DIAGNOSIS & CURE
NOISE AIR CONDITIONER / HEAT PUMP
NOISE, DUCT VIBRATION DAMPENERS
NOISE, HEATING SYSTEMS
NOISE, WATER HEATER
ODORS GASES SMELLS, DIAGNOSIS & CURE
ODORS FROM HEATING SYSTEMS
OIL BURNER FUEL UNIT
OIL BURNER INSPECTION & REPAIR
OIL BURNER NOISE SMOKE ODORS
OIL BURNER NOZZLE & ELECTRODES
OIL BURNERS, RETENTION HEAD
OIL BURNER SOOT & PUFFBACKS
OIL FILTERS on HEATING EQUIPMENT
OIL FILTER MISSING
OIL FUEL TYPES & CHARACTERISTICS
OIL HEAT FIRE SAFETY CONTROLS
OIL LINE CLOGGING FIX
OIL LINE QUICK STOP VALVES
OIL LINE SAFETY VALVES, OSVs
OIL FILL PIPE LEAKS
OIL PUMP FUEL UNIT
OIL SPILL CLEANUP / PREVENTION
PLASTIC Plexvent / Ultravent RECALL
PULSE COMBUSTION HEATERS
PRESSURE REDUCING VALVES
PRESSURE REGULATOR, WATER
PUFFBACKS, OIL BURNER
PUMPS, PONY PUMPS
RADIANT HEAT Floor Mistakes to Avoid
RADIANT HEAT TEMPERATURES
RADIANT SLAB FLOORING CHOICES
RADIANT SLAB TUBING & FLUID CHOICES
REFRIGERANTS & PIPING
RELIEF VALVE LEAKS
RELIEF VALVES - TP Valves on Boilers
RELIEF VALVES - STEAM TP VALVES
RELIEF VALVES - Water Heaters
RELIEF VALVES - Water Tanks
Reset Switch - Heater Primary Control
Reset Switch Broken - Quick Repair
RESET SWITCH - ELECTRIC MOTOR
Reset Switch - Stack Relays
SAFETY HAZARDS & INSPECTIONS
SAFETY HAZARDS GUIDE
SAFETY, HEATING INSPECTION
SAFETY RECALLS CHIMNEYS VENTS HEATERS
SAFETY, HEATING INSPECTION
SAFETY,HOME HEATING TIPS
SOOT on OIL FIRED HEATING EQUIPMENT
SPILL SWITCHES - Flue Gas Detection
STAIN DIAGNOSIS on BUILDING INTERIORS
Thermal Expansion Cracking of Brick
THERMAL EXPANSION of HOT WATER
THERMAL EXPANSION of MATERIALS
THERMAL IMAGING, THERMOGRAPHY
THERMAL IMAGING MOLD SCANS
THERMAL MASS in BUILDINGS
THERMAL TRACKING & HEAT LOSS
THERMOSTATS, HEATING / COOLING
TRANSITE PIPE CHIMNEYS & FLUES
WATER HEATER SAFETY
WATER HEATERS for HOME HEATING USE?
WATER HEATER NOISES
WATER HEATER SCALE - De-Liming Procedure
WATER HEATER SCALE PREVENTION
WINTERIZE A BUILDING
WOOD, COAL STOVES & FIREPLACES
WOOD STOVE SAFETY
ZONE VALVES, HEATING
Guide to flue gas spill switches on gas fired heating equipment: here we explain the installation, function, & troubleshooting Flue Gas Spill Switches and we provide a Guide to inspecting Furnace or Boiler Flue Gas Spill Switches on gas fired equipment such as heating boilers, warm air furnaces, water heaters. We describe the Purpose, Inspection, Repair Troubleshooting Guide for flue gas spill switches which are installed at dampers or burners on gas fired equipment.
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Guide to Furnace or Boiler Flue Gas Spill Switches on gas fired equipment - Purpose, Inspection, Repair
This article series answers most questions about central heating system troubleshooting, inspection, diagnosis, and repairs.
We describe how to inspect, troubleshoot and repair heating and air conditioning systems to inform home owners, buyers, and home inspectors of common heating system defects.
We include product safety recall and other heating system hazards. Also see GAS PIPING, VALVES, CONTROLS for more details on how to inspect and test LP and natural gas piping, controls, valves, and tanks.
We continue to add to and update this text as new details are provided.
A spill switch may be found at the draft hood on any modern gas fired appliance, such as a heating furnace (hot air heat), a heating boiler (hot water heat or steam heat), or a water heater. This little sensor, or two or more of them, form an important safety device that feels the heat of escaping combustion gases that ought to be going up the flue or chimney.
Since escaping combustion gases in a building are dangerous (forming a potentially fatal carbon monoxide hazard), if the sensor gets hot from flue gases flowing past its surface, it is designed to turn off the fuel supply to the gas burner.
Combustion gas or flue gas spill switches are usually installed at the edge of the gas fired appliance draft hood. Some appliances may also have a spill switch installed at the gas burner opening itself.
This photo shows a spill switch at a gas fired water heater draft hood. In the somewhat blurry photo of dog hair blocking a heater draft hood (above) you can also make out the spill switch and its wire at the right edge of the draft hood in that photo.
In the photo at left, a spill switch was not installed but had been simply left loose, disconnected, atop the water heater.
Missing flue gas spill switches: we've seen these switches removed from modern water heaters, gas boilers, or gas furnaces when they were originally installed. If you see holes drilled into the edge of a draft hood or other marks indicating that a device has been removed, or if you see the devices themselves lying loose, perhaps on or near the equipment, an expert service technician should examine the heater promptly as it may be unsafe.
Misplaced flue spillage switches: the spill switch needs to be installed in the proper location so that if a chimney blockage or some other operating problem causes combustion gases to spill out of the appliance into the building, the flow of flue gases, while still warm, will pass over the switch sensor. (There may be other flue spillage switches which sense carbon monoxide (CO) or other gases directly and without depending on the gas temperature.
Older heaters with no flue spill switch: On older heating systems these safety switches may not be installed at all. A spill switch or a set of them can be added to almost any gas fired appliance, but it is likely that the gas control valve/regulator will need to be replaced too, since the old regulator may not have a point to which the spill switch's sensor wire can be connected to tell the valve to close.
Flue gas spill switch operating failure: While a spill switch could simply fail to sense passing hot gases and thus not perform its safety function of turning off the heater, or while such as switch might simply fail internally, forcing the heater to turn off when it should not, in our experience these are rare events. We do not have at hand industry failure rates for this device but we suspect that installation errors or omissions are far more common.
Some Spill Switches on Gas Equipment Include a Reset Switch or Button
Flue gas spill switches normally connect to the gas valve on gas fired appliances and the switch will shut the valve after sensing flue gas spillage such as that which could occur if the flue becomes blocked.
Many flue gas spill sensor switches, such as the Field Controls GSK-3, GSK-4, GSK-250M switches (which operate based on sensing temperatures of 180, 200, or 250 °F respectively) include a manual reset switch.
The manual reset switch is needed because a gas appliance pilot light can turn off for more reasons than a blocked flue or chimney problem that is resulting in dangerous flue gas spillage.
SAFETY WARNING: If your gas fired equipment has shut down in SAFETY OFF position it may be due to a resettable flue gas spill sensor switch.
Check with your heating service company - you might think you can avoid a costly heating service call, BUT BEWARE: because flue gas spillage is very dangerous, including the production of potentially fatal carbon monoxide gas, don't simply reset the system without finding out what caused the problem in the first place.
Here is a sketch of the Tjernlund Products Inc. Gas Spill Switch which also includes a manual reset button.
Tjernlund's sketch (left) shows the reset button right on the gas spill switch.
MORE SAFETY WARNINGS: in addition to our safety warning above, Tjernlund explains that flue gas safety switches are intended to alert the building occupants to a potentially dangerous condition.
But flue gas spillage safety switches are not a substitute for a regular chimney safety inspection nor do they replace regular heating appliance inspection and maintenance by a trained technician. Those steps must be taken as well.
Readers should also see COMBUSTION AIR DEFECTS where we explain the causes and remedies for inadequate combustion air.
Where are all the heating system reset buttons? If you are looking for the main reset button on heating equipment you'll want to see: AQUASTAT CONTROL Functions and CAD CELL RELAY SWITCH (hot water boilers and some water heaters), Stack Relay Switch on older oil fired boilers and furnaces, SPILL SWITCHES (gas fired equipment), and also Low Water Cutoff Controls on steam heating systems. At ELECTRIC MOTOR OVERLOAD RESET SWITCH we discuss the thermal overload switch and reset button that is found on many electric motors including those operating air conditioning fans, heating system oil burners, and furnace blowers and motors.
What causes unsafe flue gas spillage:
Bachrach Corporation, a manufacturer of heating system test equipment opines that gas fired equipment is more likely to have flue gas spillage from a blocked chimney than from building depressurization due to inadequate combustion air supply. We're not sure what data supports that view.
Certainly home inspectors find many heating appliances installed in tiny closets with no outside combustion air and a door that, when shut, blocks off air to the appliance. We have also observed that gas fired heating equipment operated just fine in a building until a new owner installed a whole house ventilation fan system.
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