A Warning for Owners of Furman IT Refernence 20i

A Warning to anyone who owns a Furman IT Reference 20i for power filtering-
Do Not Leave the unit unattended while powered on. A few weeks ago, I smelled the very acrid smell of melting plastic and circuit board coming from my stereo. Long story short, my Furman IT Reference was the source and one of the circuit boards that was designed to prevent ‘current inrush’ self destructed. 
Thankfully, I was close by and was able to quickly unplug the unit or there was a very serious chance of fire! Since then I have tried, without any success, to have the unit repaired, but have gotten nowhere with Furman (now part of Nortek). I have tried sending in multiple requests for service. I’ve tried calling, only to end up in ‘press 1 for, press 2, purgatory..‘. When I have managed to get someone on the line, they referred me to their ‘dealer network’ for repairs. I contacted one of the dealers and they told me that only Furman is allowed to perform their own repairs. Call back Nortek and they won’t sell parts and they only use their dealers for repairs. Lather, Rinse, repeat. For $5k I’d expected better. The only good news is that I’m a very experienced service person for research instrumentation and I was able to identify the electrical component that failed (Ametek Thermistor SL22). Furman undersized the thermistor in their inrush circuit and thereby started the board to self destruct. The part is very cheap and I’m hoping I can still salvage the circuit board. But BEWARE! Had I not been nearby, it could have been much much worse!!!


Reminds me of the time a brand new Yaquin hybrid integrated went up in flames in my office.  Had I not been there, the whole place would have burnt down. 

Unfortunately, I have heard of this sort of problem more than once. A good friend of mine lost his home to a plastic power strip that ignited. Any unit that I own that has to do with power is built within a metal case. That, and location of the power unit can be important. 


  That is a good question. The reason that I would tend to doubt it is because it seems that many manufacturers change up parts from model to model and even from unit to unit., let alone year to year. That is a blanket statement, I will admit. 

 Within my limited scope of electronic knowledge, I still take the top off units just to see wth is going on. Many times it is a headshaker, but like in the case of my BPT unit, there is nothing admiration to be had for the forethought and quality displayed.

Thanks for the response.  I do have to say I really like Garth Powell’s designs.  In my main system I use the Niagara 7000, and like that it stores energy for transients.  I also have an modest home theater system plugged into it and it really made it sound quite sweet.

when putting together a small system away from home I tried the Audioquest power center 3, since I read it was very similar to Niagara 1000/1200.  I ended up preferring the sound of the used 15 year old  Furman reference 15, which I read is the same as the 15i, which just has upgraded cosmetics.  


I had a reference 15 for years and never had a problem with it.  It was left on all the time.


I recommend not leaving your stereo equipment plugged in and turned on and unattended for any length of time. I take it even further and unplug my stereo when I’m not home. Not for reasons of safety, but it’s more that I’ve known owners who lost their entire system due to a nearby lightening strike during a thunderstorm. As for Furman, I had hoped that they’d stand behind their product. 

I just called the customer service number:  800-472-5555

Here's the scoop:

  • Furman does not do service on power conditioners.
  • Units that are in warranty get replaced.
  • Units out of warranty get discount purchases on a brand new unit IF you have your receipts.
  • They recommend EBC for repairs.

Based on their web page the Merit and Elite units get a 3 year warranty, Reference, Classic and Prestige 5 years.

I do want to say a few things:

1 - I’ve had my Elite 15i for like 20 years. Never ever had a problem with it.

2 - The part in question seems correct for the load, maybe the built-in transformer however makes it undersized?

3 - The metal housing makes a fire very unlikely.

4 - The person who answered the phone at Furman was very helpful and straightforward about how things work now, if you got into a voice-mail merry go round with them I sure did not. I mean, I didn’t get the answers I wanted but it was all pretty straightforward.


Thanks so much for the information. I really do appreciate it! 
For whatever it’s worth (and after 40 some years of working with research instrumentation , I know this part is boring), their toroidal transformer is one of the largest I’ve yet seen in high end audio, bigger than what I’ve seen inside of big Krells or even the big Boulder amps. While toroidal transformers are well recognized for their low stray fields, it comes with a cost- serious ‘inrush current’ till the AC field is stabile. A very common approach to handling inrush is to place a thermistor in front of the transformer. Upon startup, the thermistor (dependent on type) appears as a high resistive load. That load is then dissipated as heat. Unfortunately, in this case, the heavy gauge wires carrying the AC load were run over the top of the thermistor. As the thermistor was overheating the circuit board traces, it was also melting through the load wires and would have eventually fused the wires together likely creating a ‘dead short’ to the metal chassis. The unit has a circuit breaker, as does the main panel to my house. But, after decades of working inside of instrumentation, I believe it’s always best not to ‘tempt the gods’. Never turning off the unit would definitely reduce the amount of ‘thermal cycling’ that the thermistor sees and extends its MTBF (Mean Time Before Failure- old term). I strongly recommend Not leaving electrical equipment powered on. 

If you are not getting a satisfactory response from the manufacture, I would threaten to take the issue up with electronic safety board in your country of residence?  If the unit has a known issue that could cause a fire, you would think that the manufacture would not want to risk the liability.  

Just wow. I appreciate the accurate description of what has occurred, an NO, few of us here would find your explanation boring. In fact, I am always interested in the guts of a unit. Interesting to note the size of the transformer in particular. It's one thing to get the correct sized thermistor to do the job but running a line over the top of it speaks for itself. Please do keep us informed as things hopefully progress. 

Owned a 15i Elite for years and it functioned flawlessly.  Replaced with Decware ZLC which smoked (figuratively) it completely.  The ZLC made everything much quieter and more dynamic.  So, in a weird way, perhaps the smoked unit did you a favor and you can move on to a better unit.  Cheers