In recent years, the inclusion of high-end amenities such as natural gas grills and fireplaces have helped apartment and condominium complexes attract a wide range of renters. These touches of domesticity are a welcome luxury to building occupants, however due to their inherent safety risks, specific safety functions are required when incorporating into a building’s design.
As adopted and amended by 248 CMR, NFPA 54, National Fuel and Gas Code, outlines specific requirements for natural gas appliances such as outdoor fireplaces and grills. One such requirement is the need for an accessible, approved manual shutoff valve approved by the AHJ prior to installation. The manual valve must be dedicated to a single appliance and be located within 6 feet of such appliance unless specific exceptions are met. At decorative fireplaces, this valve may be located within the unit if listed for such use. The details associated with the valve and fuel piping are subject to the provisions of NFPA 54 and 248 CMR, and should be incorporated as a part of the plumbing design.
When arranging shutoff devices, numerous factors must be considered. For example, the manufacturer’s installation instructions/data sheet will provide specific criteria as to the height, orientation, approximate location, and means of attachment for a specific device. Since these are the conditions by which the device has been tested and listed, they must be complied with.
Equally important to the manufacturer guidelines are the requirements of the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ). The AHJ will outline their specific requirements for type, number, and location of shutoff devices. These requirements can vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, meaning that up-front coordination during the design phase of a project is paramount to minimize unforeseen issues during the building sign-off process. As an example, some AHJ’s may require an emergency shutoff button in addition to the manual shutoff valve previously discussed. Typically these would be located in the vicinity of the appliance and/or situated at the entrance to the space containing the appliance to allow for remote shutoff.
Figure 1: Example of Gas Shutoff Switch at an Egress Door
Ultimately, when installing a natural gas heating appliance, special care should be taken in determining the location of safety devices. While NFPA 54 will outline basic requirements, the manufacturer’s data sheet and the approval of the AHJ should be consulted to ensure the most optimal arrangement is chosen. Proactive coordination will ensure devices are located appropriately from the outset of the project, limiting rework and any changes to overall design.
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