Bob Torbin 2015-01-12 01:06:31
The residential construction market is driven by change in methods, materials and products. Change is overseen by codes and standards, and any given change is expected to improve the overall performance, safety and cost. Corrugated stainless steel tubing (CSST) used for the distribution of fuel gas was not even available in the plumbing market until 1989. But in the intervening 25 years, CSST has grown into a mainstream product that has been widely accepted by the plumbing community and is on the verge of displacing rigid steel pipe as the predominant fuel gas piping system. This market shift was driven by the rapid growth in fuel gas usage along with the rapid growth in new housing starts. The plumbing industry quickly adopted CSST as a means to rapidly install gas piping with less labor and permit more complex piping systems that are capable of easily reaching any corner of the house. CSST provides a safe and reliable gas infrastructure with far fewer joints so that it can be installed in a few hours rather than a few days. However, change is never easy or predictable. The requirements for electrical bonding were simplified in the 2002 National Electrical Code and National Fuel Gas Code that resulted in an unexpected vulnerability of gas piping systems to electrical arcing damage from lightning. The unequal bonding of the various metallic systems within the home exposes the gas piping systems (including CSST) to arcing events from lightning strikes. Although lightning damage is relatively rare, it poses the possibility of property loss. To address The situation, the CSST industry required more robust bonding of its CSST piping. This ultimately resulted in a change in the 2009 National Fuel Gas Code requiring extra bonding of CSST systems using a 6 AWG copper wire. However, the National Electrical Code does not have the same requirement, and that disparity causes contradictory and confusing interpretations of the bonding requirements by many building code officials. As a result of the inconsistent regulatory environment, Omega Flex took a more comprehensive design approach for its CSST products. Omega Flex introduced its first generation of arc-resistant CSST in 2004 that was replaced by the second-generation CounterStrike® CSST in 2007. Counterstrike is designed to conduct and disperse energy from an electrical arc within the jacket over a larger area. The arcresistant CSST only requires the same bonding connection as steel pipe in order to be effective. In 2011, Omega Flex transitioned its entire CSST business in the United States to its CounterStrike brand — a transition that has been well-received by the plumbing community. In 2014, the CSA standards committee instituted a change to the CSST performance standard ANSI LC-1 to include evaluation criteria for arc-resistant jackets. In September 2014, another manufacturer, Gastite, announced its plans to only offer its arc-resistant FlashShield product starting in 2015. This second transition was predictable and may represent an irreversible trend as the plumbing, code, fire and building communities realize the upside benefits of the arc-resistant CSST.
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