Received a letter, included here, from the Dept. of the Atty. Gen. of RI today. They are washing their hands of the matter based on the corporate response from Amtrol, also included here, which was basically a regurgitation of Mr. Cerpowicz' comments but they did manage to accuse me of slandering the company in my response to them, which I did not do. The Amtrol rep is confused.
Here is a transcript of the letter:
State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations
Department of Attorney General
150 South Main St
Providence, RI 02903
Peter F. Kilmartin, Attorney General
April 11, 2014
Dear Mr. Westbrook:
Thank you for contacting the Consumer Protection Unit regarding your complaint against Amtrol, Inc. I have received a response from the business which I am enclosing for your review.
Please be assured that while the Consumer Protection Unit has done everything, as allowed under the Deceptive Trade Practices Act, to resolve your complaint, we cannot pursue this matter any further.
Upon reviewing the facts of the situation, a private attorney will be in the best position to advise you with respect to potential legal remedies. If you need assistance locating an attorney, the Rhode Island Bar Association has a Lawyer Referral Service that will refer you to competent and reliable attorneys. For further information regarding this program, please contact the Lawyer Referral Service by telephone at (401) 421-7799. You may also consider filing a complaint with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, 4330 East West Highway, Bethesda, Maryland 20814. The telephone number for that agency is (800) 638-2772.
If you have any questions or I may be of further assistance, I can be reached at (401) 274-4400, ext. 2254.
Consumer Protection Unit
And the letter from Amtrol to Mr. Charles Fish:
April 10, 2014
Consumer Protection Unit
Department of Attorney General
150 South Main Street
Providence, RI 02903
Re: Michael Westbrook Complaint
Dear Mr. Fish:
I am in receipt of your April 8, 2014 letter forwarding a complaint received from Michael Westbrook.
Based on our 60 years of experience manufacturing this product, failures of the nature described by Mr. Westbrook are always due to oxygen in the system causing it to corrode from the inside out. Without the benefit of knowing the dated code on the unit to confirm its age or knowing the details of the installation to ensure it was properly installed and sized for this application, we are unable to assist with determining the source of the problem in order to prevent future failures.
We have responded to Mr. Westbrook in an attempt to assist him with troubleshooting the problem, a copy of the exchange is attached for your reference. As you can see by his response, he is more interested in slandering a reputable company alleging unfounded quality issues with the product rather than trying to resolve the problem to prevent future failures. AMTROL sells millions of these units yearly and have a less than 1% warranty rate, having three individuals in his network of plumbing and heating installer friends who experienced the same problem does not constitute a widespread quality issue but rather a small percentage of coal burning homeowners who may be experiencing the same issue.
He states that he treats the boiler water for pH, uses a nitrite-borax additive and adds make up water due to leaks and repairs. This additive is an attempt to condition water. However, it creates and electrolyte solution that can cause corrosion. Leaking and subsequent fresh water make-up introduces oxygen into the system and without proper air elimination will cause corrosion. His boiler water is black with magnetite which is iron oxide and evidence of corrosion.
It appears that Mr. Westbrook purchased the unit from an unknown sources online, sized, installed and maintains the unit himself. We do not know his qualifications but for the safety of the consumer, we do require that the unit be installed and maintained by a qualified licensed professional.
If you have any questions, I am available at your convenience to discuss further. Thank you for your assistance.
Lynn A. Taylor
Manager, Legal and
The enclosures were posts from this thread, specifically the first, seventh, and eighth, and the Amtrol instructions for installing an Extrol expansion tank.
1. The issue is steel quality, or sufficiency, in their current units vs previously manufactured units.
There is NO DATE CODE ON THE TANK that is identified by the words "date code" or "date of mfr". The old one does have a "date code" on the paper label identified by those words. The new tank has a painted logo/label. The old one is still installed on the same system, operating fine, not leaking, indicating that either a) there is no significant oxygen problem in my system or b) if there is an oxygen problem, the quality or sufficiency of their steel has declined substantially since the older tank was purchased in 2007 and all of the professional people I know have had similar issues with the tank in recent years. That is not a coincidence. Ms. Taylor writes her "unfounded quality issues" paragraph with boundless confidence as if they could not possibly be wrong, and, in fact, they cannot be anything but wrong, one way or another: either the oxygen is nil and the tank steel is poor, or the oxygen is high and the tank steel is still poor! She has stated that it is incontrovertibly oxygen in the system that caused the failure. I say the tank merely failed prematurely due to either poor quality steel or insufficient thickness.
I have a working older Amtrol tank on the same system (a control group, as it were) to show the quality difference. She deflects the issue to oxygen in my boiler system. The issue is the unit failed long before its time due to poor steel quality or insufficiency in their current units vs previously manufactured units.
2. Amtrol's response was so much sophistry
: Effectively, they said this: "Our tanks are infallible because we are the best because we invented the diaphragm tank sixty years ago and we sell millions of them. Because they are so good we have a five year warranty with a less than 1% rate of claim. Therefore, whatever your tank problem is, it is incontrovertibly
your fault, Mr. Consumer. Send us the tank and we'll show you where you are wrong, and we will help you fix your imperfect system so that our perfect tank cannot be made to fail again."
3. The only reason this got my attention and action at all was the unanimous response of professionals.
Interestingly enough, Amtrol makes the point that they want the unit installed by a professional plumber/heating contractor and inspected annually, ostensibly for their expert knowledge, however, they don't give a hoot about the professional plumbing/heating contractor's expert opinion when it comes to the quality of their product! That's quite a convenient and self-serving duality: The professional plumber knows exactly what he's doing--until he criticizes product, at which time he becomes an idiot, by corporate decree.
Amtrol believes that a consumer should ignore responses from three, four, or five professional plumbers and installers who ALL had negative commentary about the quality and longevity of a product? They think I should consider that anecdotal? I am sorry but: a) I cannot take the time or resources to do a formal survey and b) the unanimity of that small professional sample, independently derived, is telling. When these Amtrol folks go to the doctor and don't like the result or the opinion, how many other opinions do they get? So which is is? Are plumbers subject knowledgeable or are they idiots? Amtrol needs to make up their mind!
Furthermore, given the low cost of these items and the immediate need for their replacement when failed, plumbers will often just bill through to their customer a new unit, forgetting any warranty claim, or they "eat it". If they do seek a claim, they often seek reimbursement from their supplier. If the supplier is willing they may replace it. Suppliers and plumbing contractors don't like paperwork, so low costs are often "eaten" when the time and effort is worth more than the item. How do I know this? I am a retailer who eats low cost returns. Warranty claims at their end are just the tip of the iceberg.
4. Ms. Taylor is saying that because I said my boiler water was "black with magnetite" I must be experiencing caustic corrosion. That is an assumption on her part.
As for my boiler water treatment. Nitrite-Borax systems can be corrosive when two things occur: the nitrite concentrations fall below 600ppm and/or the pH falls below 8 or goes above 11. When installing the treatment, it is best to err on the side of over-saturation so that the abundance of nitrates will not fail to take up free oxygen ions from the make-up water or other sources.
Ms. Taylor was noting that I said my boiler water was "black with magnetite" which was iron oxide which is evidence of corrosion. That is both true and false depending on the circumstances. First, not being a good chemist and having a poor memory of the boiler chemistry applied, I may have mis-characterized the water as being "black with magnetite". It may just be dirty from my hundred year old boilers! But, nonetheless, magnetite is
an iron oxide, but it is not
a corrosive rust. It is a desirable protective layer that coats the inside of your iron and steel pipes and boiler.
However, when that protective film is in a caustic environment, the dissolution and reforming causes caustic gouging. That is not a problem I am experiencing because 1) Sodium hydroxide is not present (caustic soda) because it is a poor pH buffer. I use a different and superior pH buffer. 2) free oxygen is picked up by the system water which is super-saturated with nitrites that readily accept those oxygen radicals. Ms. Taylor is saying that because I said my boiler water was "black with magnetite", I must be experiencing caustic corrosion. That is an assumption on her part. I am going to test my water for nitrite levels and pH and then send it out for iron analysis. I am quite certain that my 95 gallons of originally treated water, which was supplemented 100% with treatment two years later, taking nitrite levels to 1600ppm and pH to 10 could not be diluted down to sub-protective levels. It would mean that I have diluted the system with over 95 gallons of make up water (or drained 47 and added 47 fresh). It just didn't happen because it is done manually, not automatically. I am present for all additions of make up water. Since the boiler water is poisonous, and despite having backflow preventers installed, I keep two valves closed to isolate domestic water from boiler water.
Regardless, the water that was introduced to my boiler originally was well water containing some iron. I have 13 cast iron radiators. So iron is present. Magnetite forms in an oxygen free environment. My system is tight but not perfect. I do not have galvanic reaction leaks. I took care to use brass to separate iron and copper, or used dielectric fittings. I maintain 15psi which keeps oxygen dissolved. I have a Spirovent Junior air eliminator, mod. VJV125FT (the type for a vertical pipe) on the vertical pipe leaving the boiler. Following that, on a horizontal run is a Honeywell air scoop ( with mounted original Amtrol Ex-30, date code: 20021226306) and Cash Acme air vent. I bleed rad valves annually and after opening the system. (With the Spiro they never have any air in them. ) The point being that I keep oxygen eliminated both chemically and mechanically.
I am not a plumber nor a heating contractor, nor do I play one on TV, nor did I stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night! But, I am a good student of math and science, a good reader and researcher (read some J. Siegenthaler PE), a "hardware" guy, I ask questions and seek advice, and I live in a county where I was not required to have a license to install a coal boiler but I did have to install according to code and have it inspected. I passed without any problems, installing the system, top to bottom: boiler, coal bin, piping, trims, radiation. (Chimney was contracted.)
So, unless, the rest of you who have problems also complain, they win, because they know that no one is going to spend much time and energy on a $45 tank.