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Annual CO Warning!!!!


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When it gets cold, and we all fire up the boiler or start the wood stove, it's time to remind folks about the dangers of Carbon Monoxide.  Please be serious for a moment, and think about this.

 

Some of you know that much of my professional life involves the investigation and trial of cases involving explosions, fires and carbon monoxide poisonings.  I'd prefer NOT to meet you through my work - so a few reminders and hints are in order at the start of the heating season.

 

  • Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless gas; it kills by interfering with the body's ability to absorb and use oxygen in the blood; chances are, if you are exposed, you will not realize it until it's too late; you may start out feeling like you have the flu (headache, queasy stomach, dizziness, vomiting) but if your exposure continues, you will soon lose consciousness and die; 400-500 people per year die in the US from unintentional CO exposures; 6000-7000 per year suffer permanent brain injuries, ranging from mild to crippling losses of cognitive functions.
  • Harmful CO is produced when fuels are incompletely burned and the by-products discharged into living areas.  This usually means a malfunctioning appliance combined with a defective vent and inadequate air exchange.  Common accident causes include dirty or defective furnaces/boilers, rusted vent systems, improperly vented fireplaces and wood stoves, indoor use of charcoal grills, generators or other fuel-burning appliances, and even car engines running in attached garages.  CO can be produced by any device that uses wood, coal, charcoal, natural gas, oil or propane as a fuel.  The risk of CO exposure can be heightened by "tight" construction, especially where older seasonal homes/cottages are winterized by adding insulation, weatherstripping and new windows and doors, but older appliances are left in place or homeowners "Mickey Mouse" heating system installations or repairs.
  • The risk of CO poisoning can be reduced  by:
    • Proper installation and use of CO detectors; this is CRUCIAL; nothing does a better job of warning you about a CO problem than a working detector; read the directions and install it properly; location is important;
    • Leave the structure when the alarm sounds; it is amazing how many folks choose to pull the plug and ignore the alarm because they "don't smell anything"; of course not, dummy; it's an ODORLESS gas;  get out and call the Fire Department - they have hand-held CO detectors, and can confirm that you have a real problem; don't go back until it is fixed!
    • Have your furnace/boiler serviced annually; this is the opportunity to check for proper combustion, perforation of the heat exchanger or other damage that can allow gases to escape into the living space, and to check the integrity of the venting system;  a properly operating heating system does not produce lethal amounts of CO, and a yearly check-up is absolutely essential to catch problems before they become deadly; a properly functioning vent system does not allow gases to enter the living spaces.
    • Venting is NOT a home handyman job; with the advent of high-efficiency appliances and tight construction, adequate air supply (for complete combustion), condensation in the exhaust (which can rot venting) and adequate draft (to make sure the gases move up and out) have become delicate balances, requiring an in-depth understanding of the system components; leave this work to a skilled, licensed professional, or you may be risking your life.  I see more venting-related CO deaths than any other kind.  Dryer exhaust piping is NOT a material suitable for appliance venting.  Many appliances require specific types of vent piping; using the wrong one can cause premature cooling of the exhaust gases, leading to discharge of gases inside the house.  Too many elbows in the system can interfere with gas movement; improper slope can do the same.  Call a pro!
    • If you have an attached garage, do NOT warm up your car in the garage; pull it out before you let it run for any extended period.  If there are any openings, no matter how small, in the walls or ceiling of the garage, seal them so they are air-tight.
    • Babies and the elderly, as well as folks with compromised respiratory systems, are at greater risk for the effects of CO at lower levels; do NOT assume that there is nothing wrong just because YOU do not feel ill when the detector sounds; treat every alarm as a real risk.
  • Unfortunately, not a year goes by that I do not see a horrendous accident scene, where innocent folks have died because someone was thoughtless or careless in the installation or maintenance of the heating system.  PLEASE do not become a victim, or be forced to face the consequences of ignoring simple, inexpensive steps to maintain your appliances and warn your family of the threat of CO.  Detectors cost about $40 at Home Depot or Lowe's; buy one TODAY and install it before Christmas.

 

A Safe and Merry Christmas to you all!

 

LL

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A timely warning: well and clearly explained, and thank you for this!

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We just lost three folks in a nearby town (an adult and two teens) to CO as they were running a gas generator in a house (really stupid).

 

My wife had a couple of neighbors who sealed their row house in DC so tightly with plastic wrap and tape around their basement door, that a poorly functioning oil furnace killed them.

 

A CO detector is a potential life-saver.

 

Church Key

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Thank you very much for the information, LL.  We had a malfunctioning furnace that nearly killed us several years ago.  That prompted us to buy a CO detector and we've had one ever since.

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18 hours ago, Allie Mo, SASS No. 25217 said:

When I was a child, my dad messed with the heater. The next morning, I woke up on the front porch with my mother giving me mouth-to-mouth. It was so long ago, I don't remember if it was CO or what.

 

Yep! Good post, Loophole!

 

It probably was, Allie; and you were darned lucky that your Mom found you and knew what to do.

 

Dads - don't mess with stuff you don't understand; Moms - tell Dad to go get a detector.

 

LL

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You should have both CO and CO2 detectors in your homes if you have furnaces inside your homes.

They should be installed by a qualified individual and replaced according to the manufacturers recommendations.

 

You may choose to have monitored detectors installed as an additional level of protection.

If you choose this option. please choose a local INDEPENDENT alarm company for the monitoring and maintenance. They do a much better job and are much easier to reach when a problem occures.

 

In any case, when the detector sounds - LEAVE THE HOME IMMEDIATELY! Then call the fire department. Fresh air is your life's blood!

 

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55 minutes ago, Ace_of_Hearts said:

You should have both CO and CO2 detectors in your homes if you have furnaces inside your homes.

I have alway had 2 in the house one in the proximity  of the furnace  then one in some other part of the house

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Thank you for the Post .

Rooster 

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