In a move to protect the public from a potential problem with their newest high efficiency central air filtration system, Trane announced a recall of certain models of their Trane brand CleanEffects and American Standard brand AccuClean air cleaners manufactured prior to May 29, 2007. Dave Pannier, president of Residential Systems for Trane and American Standard, in an exclusive interview with Contracting Business, explains that there were seven reported incidents that led to the company’s decision to recall the product.
“The seven incidents involved the smell of smoke emanating from the CleanEffects/AccuClean systems, into the home,” Pannier explains. “That was enough to create a concern that prompted a significant investigation as to the cause. The problem occurs in the presence of excessive moisture. When it gets onto the filter itself, excessive moisture can create arcing and carbon tracking.
“Over time, this generates enough heat to start to attack the filter cell collection material. Though this material is flame-retardant, it will melt under enough heat and that is where the smoke and the smell come from.”
All seven instances were on air handler applications in hot and humid climates (thus the moisture). In air handler applications, the evaporator coil, which is a source of moisture from condensation, is adjacent, to the CleanEffects/AccuClean filters. In a furnace application, the evaporator coil is in the outlet, downstream of the blower. Pannier says the company has not seen similar incidents with furnaces. He added that related products are not affected, including integrated air handlers, integrated furnaces, all Perfect Fit upgrades, and any AccuClean or CleanEffects produced on or after May 29, 2007.
“We debated over whether to make this a partial recall or a full recall,” he explains. “We opted for a full recall only because we know that it is NOT impossible for a similar situation to occur in a furnace application. So we are replacing the collection cells in ALL applications -- air handlers and furnaces.”
“We are taking all of these steps despite the fact that the incidents reported represent a failure rate of less than one tenth of one percent. “We do not take any chances with consumer safety,” he adds.
So on Wednesday, June 14, 2007, Pannier says the company submitted a verbal report to the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) on the problem and followed up with a full written report on Friday, June 22. He told Contracting Business that he is hopeful the CPSC will approve the corrective action plan this week. “Then we can begin the rework,” he adds.
The rework will consist of replacing the affected collection cells with a version that has a higher impedance resister embedded in the electronics, so that even in the presence of excessive moisture, they will not fail.
“We've tested this and are confident in the fix and expect the CPSC to approve our corrective action plan,” Pannier says. “As soon as that is done, we'll begin shipping those new collection cells out to our distribution to make them available to our dealers who can make them available to their customers.” Pannier added that the new collection cells will have the same air cleaning efficiency of 99.98% down to .1 microns.
According to Pannier, the actual replacement requires less than 15 minutes of work, though he understands that it will take more time to contact homeowners, make appointments, and get into their homes to make the change out, and then document iappropriately.
“These replacements are at our expense. There is no cost to the consumer, the contractor, or the distributor. We will reimburse our dealers for their time to go out and make this swap. It is ultimately our responsibility, and so we are stepping up.”
Pannier would not discuss the overall financial exposure related to the recall, but said: “The bottom line is that we take safety very seriously and that this is the right thing to do for our business and for our customers.
In terms of information dissemination, Pannier says the company held two national conference calls with all of their distributors from the outset, keeping them informed and in the loop. The first one was on Friday, June 14 and the second one on June 22. Though there isn't yet a centralized place for contractors and consumers to go, Pannier says once the CPSC approves the recall plan, information will be posted on the Trane and American Standard websites and an 800 number will be set up for both consumers and contractors to call in.
In addition, the company will release a communications package to distributors and contractors that will include talking points for contractors to use when they talk to homeowners.
“Based upon the response that we've received, people appreciate our stepping up. Our common objective is to quickly replace the affected collection cells and get our customers back to enjoying the benefits of their air cleaning systems. What is out of our control is the CPSC, and our mission right now is to make sure they understand our plan and approve it. Then we'll move as fast as humanly possible to complete the replacement program,” Pannier concludes.
So stay tuned. The CPSC should have its decision hopefully by Friday, June 29. Contracting Business will post the CPSC's decision and Trane's next steps on HVAC-Talk.com, the Serviceroundtable.com, and ContractingBusiness.com as soon as the information is available.