Building America Case Study: Combustion Safety Simplified Test Protocol, Chicago Illinois, and Minneapolis, Minnesota

Stacey Rothgeb, L. Brand, D. Cautley, D. Bohac, P. Francisco, L. Shen, S. Gloss

Research output: NRELFact Sheet


Combustion safety is an important step in the process of upgrading homes for energy efficiency. There are several approaches used by field practitioners, but researchers have indicated that the test procedures in use are complex to implement and provide too many false positives. Field failures often mean that the house is not upgraded until after remediation or not at all, if not include in the program. In this report the PARR and NorthernSTAR DOE Building America Teams provide a simplified test procedure that is easier to implement and should produce fewer false positives. A survey of state weatherization agencies on combustion safety issues, details of a field data collection instrumentation package, summary of data collected over seven months, data analysis and results are included. The project provides several key results. State weatherization agencies do not generally track combustion safety failures, the data from those that do suggest that there is little actual evidence that combustion safety failures due to spillage from non-dryer exhaust are common and that only a very small number of homes are subject to the failures. The project team collected field data on 11 houses in 2015. Of these homes, two houses that demonstrated prolonged and excessive spillage were also the only two with venting systems out of compliance with the National Fuel Gas Code. The remaining homes experienced spillage that only occasionally extended beyond the first minute of operation. Combustion zone depressurization, outdoor temperature, and operation of individual fans all provide statistically significant predictors of spillage.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages2
StatePublished - 2015

Bibliographical note

Work performed by Partnership for Advanced Residential Retrofit (PARR), Des Plaines, Illinois

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/FS-5500-65319

Other Report Number

  • DOE/GO-102015-4806


  • Building America
  • combustion safety
  • depressurization
  • field study
  • furnaces
  • gas appliance venting
  • Illinois
  • inspection
  • Minnesota
  • Parr
  • remediation
  • residential
  • residential buildings
  • water heaters


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