Icepak fire lessons for home owners

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Home owners risk their lives attempting DIY servicing of their air-conditioning units, the Refrigeration Air Conditioning Companies Association warns.

Association chairman Matthew Darby said that in the wake of the Fire Service’s report on the Tamahere Icepak Coolstore fire, people would be taking a huge risk doing it themselves and “their attempts could prove fatal”.

Darby noted that the Fire Service report on the fire released last week said the explosion at Icepak “was almost certainly caused by a leak of flammable refrigerant that was ignited when the firefighters were in the plant room. The igniting event was probably electrical”, reported NZPA.

“Charging your air conditioning unit is not like changing a light-bulb or fixing a leaky tap,” Mr Darby said.

“You’re dealing with substances which can be highly flammable and often very toxic. Our advice is to leave it to the experts.”

Mr Darby said that some of the air conditioning products being sold on TradeMe, including a flammable refrigerant called EnviroSafe, were of concern to the association.

“It’s not just that it’s flammable, but this product also contains Napthalene, a well-known carcinogen, so it’s not the sort of substance you want leaking around your house.”

An air conditioning system only needed refilling if there was a leak and unless that leak was fixed, the refrigerant would continue leaking, creating a potential fire risk and a risk to health, Mr Darby said.

More New Zealanders were opting for air conditioning and about 100,000 new domestic air conditioning units were purchased in the past year, up from 80,000 units the year before.

Many of these were located near living areas, near kitchens or with outside units on decks near barbecue areas, he said.

“There are plenty of ignition sources around the home that, when combined with a flammable gas can be lethal.”

Get a skilled, knowledgeable and registered person to install a unit, Mr Darby said.

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