Paula Chin in Building Operations on October 6, 2022
In the wake of deadly gas explosions in East Harlem and the East Village, the city passed Local Law 152, which requires all building owners, including co-op and condo boards, to have their gas lines in common areas inspected by a licensed master plumber every four years. In addition to the extra expense, the law has caused anxiety about costly gas shutdowns, particularly in older buildings. Finally, after all the tragedy and worry, there’s a ray of good news.
Con Edison has undertaken a program to install natural gas detectors — for free — in residential and commercial buildings throughout the New York City area. The device is typically installed in the area where Con Edison’s gas service enters the building. If levels of gas indicate a potential leak, the device will beep loudly and say: “Danger — gas leak explosion risk. Evacuate, then call 911.” The detector will also send an alert to Con Edison and the fire department, who will respond and investigate.
Best of all for boards, if a potential leak is detected, a building-wide shutdown won’t happen automatically. “That would obviously be a reason that boards would not want these detectors,” says Len Williams, the owner of McCready & Rice Plumbing. “But these detectors are extremely sensitive and can pick up even a very small amount of gas, so if it’s a minor problem or in an isolated section, the inspectors will do repairs, and that’s that.”
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Williams, who has already had a gas detector installed in his Queens office building, points out that inspections triggered by the alarm would not be any different than the periodic gas piping inspections that are required under Local Law 152. “But if a major leak is discovered and it can’t be immediately fixed,” he adds, “the building’s gas will be shut off.”
The program, which began in Westchester County last year, will continue through 2025 in the three boroughs where Con Edison supplies gas — Manhattan, Queens and the Bronx. Installation takes about an hour and does not require turning off the building’s gas. Building owners will be notified several weeks before their estimated installation date. Those who elect not to have the detectors — installation is not mandatory — can notify Con Edison by calling 800-65-CONED.
Because the detectors monitor only the area where they’re installed, plumbers advise that boards should still have separate gas detectors installed as needed elsewhere in their buildings, including in individual apartments. But the new Con Edison devices can offer everyone additional peace of mind.
“Yes, I am advising boards to have them installed,” says Mark Hoffman, principal at Hoffman Management. “It’s a good safety precaution.”
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