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Natural Gas, Old Buildings, Assumptions And No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

By Michael Gallagher, P.E.

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©2024 This excerpt taken from the article of the same name which appeared in ASHRAE Journal, vol. 66, No. 7, July 2024.

About the Author

Michael Gallagher, P.E., is president of Western Allied Corporation in Santa Fe Springs, Calif.

I had a mechanical experience recently that epitomized the expression, “no good deed goes unpunished.” Interlaced were some assumptions, some inevitabilities and the need to keep smiling. The process was a journey, not a destination, and I learned several things that were not immediately obvious.

It was late in the first week of December when I got a call from my church’s office. “There is a gas smell in the church basement. What should we do?” Since no one there would have a clue as to how to turn off the gas at the meter, I told them to call the gas company, and I also dispatched a service technician. To make a long story short, there seemed to be a small leak in the furnace room.

The gas company red tagged the meter and shut it down. We were permitted to turn it on for diagnostic and testing purposes with a tech on-site, but the campus (five buildings served from this single meter) was shut down. It was cold by Southern California standards at that time; highs in the low 70s (21°C – 24°C) and lows in the mid 40s (6°C  – 8 °C).

My tech found a leak almost immediately.

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