Ask Cecil

Written by ryan. Posted in Uncategorized


Published on December 08, 2010 with No Comments

Dear Cecil

In a recent article you mentioned the importance of having carbon monoxide Sensors in the home. How do I know if I need one? Where do I install them within the house?



Well, in the old days, many homeowners as well as mining companies used a parakeet to tell if there was a trace of poisonous gases surrounding the residences or workplaces. If the poor creature fell ill or died, that was the indication to vacate. I guess you could say that this was the first CO detector.

Carbon monoxide gas can kill you. Certain emissions from water heaters, furnaces, appliances and space heaters that are not properly installed can make you sick or worse. Even if installed correctly, any malfunctions could be potentially harmful. Most carbon monoxide deaths occur during the winter months due to faulty furnaces. It is very important to have your furnace cleaned and serviced regularly. Fireplaces are also very carbon monoxide susceptible.

Each home must have a minimum of one detector per floor. Preferably one should be placed within 15 to 20 feet of the furnace. I recommend installing one near the bedrooms as most CO deaths occur while sleeping. If you use a coal or wood burner stove, put one within 12 feet of the appliance, but be sure not to put them too close.

Play it safe. Unlike smoke alarms, a CO detector is placed midway up on a wall, on a shelf or even near or in an outlet. Carbon monoxide is not a gas that rises rapidly. A customer called me a few years ago and asked if I could check her home for a gas leak. During our conversation she stated that she was light headed and she thought it may be the flu. She had gone to the doctor for a remedy but he assured her she did not have the flu. He did not know what was causing her to become disoriented.

These are symptoms of exposure to carbon monoxide. I rushed over to her home. I conducted an inspection and found that her 15-year-old water heater was emitting carbon monoxide. Worst yet, it was situated next to her furnace that kept running and shutting off frequently. To complicate matters she allowed her husband to burn old deck wood in the very dirty fireplace.

Well I cleaned the furnace and changed the heat exchanger. I then replaced the faulty water heater. I removed the debris from inside the fireplace. Afterward I gave them an education on the proper types of wood they could safely burn. Deck boards have too many different types of pesticides and other harmful chemicals in them. Burning this type of wood can be lethal. I hired a chimney sweep to clean the creosote in the fireplace. We found a thick nest clogging the furnace chimney with some critters in it. I installed two chimney caps. Inside I installed three carbon monoxide detectors.

The customer made another appointment with her doctor. The doctor called me and I explained that I thought she may have gotten too much carbon monoxide gas. Sure enough, tests revealed that she was at a very serious stage of CO poisoning.

She came out of the treatments just fine. I still hear from this elderly couple once in a while. They are doing fine. So, if you do not have a CO detector and are not sick, but your body feels strange and flu-like, do something about it. It may be CO poisoning.

It is never too late to be safe, but it is always too late to be sorry.

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