By Carl Brahe Certifed Housing Inspector, CCI
I came home one afternoon. There was a strong smell of smoke. The wood stove chimney pipe had become clogged with creosote. My wife lit a fire in the stove. When smoke began to leak from the stove pipe joints she poured water on it to douse it and threw the smoking logs outside.
When I came in she was giddy and seemed confused. The dog was unresponsive. When I made the dog get up and go outside he refused to come back in. They were suffering from the early phases of carbon monoxide poisoning. Most carbon monoxide poisoning comes without smoke or any other warning. They were more fortunate than many. Some people don’t even realize that they have been poisoned. They just fall asleep and die.
Carbon monoxide is a deadly, colorless, odorless gas. Around 500 Americans a year die from carbon monoxide poisoning, and nearly 15,000 are hospitalized making it the second most common source of poisoning in the US. Carbon monoxide kills by preventing the transport of oxygen to the blood suffocating cells.
Carbon monoxide can begin to affect you in minutes. The first symptoms include headache, sore eyes, fatigue, drowsiness and runny nose. Dizziness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, confusion, weakness and achy muscles may follow. In the final phases of carbon monoxide poisoning nervous system damage occurs. The person will then fall into a coma and may die quickly.
In the home, carbon monoxide comes from incomplete combustion from flame fueled devices. This includes: ranges, ovens, clothes dryers, furnaces, boilers, fireplaces, grills, space heaters, vehicles running in garages and water heaters. If all of these are properly vented the CO escapes to the outside and causes no danger.
Flames from these devices should be sharp and blue color. A poorly defined, yellow flame may indicate incomplete fuel combustion. This is an indication that the device may need to be cleaned and serviced.
Newer homes are more likely to have carbon monoxide problems. Because newer homes are more airtight sufficient combustion oxygen may be lacking causing incomplete burning of fuels. CO from unvented sources like pilot lights, and appliances such as gas burning stoves and ovens can accumulate indoors if proper ventilation is not provided.
In Colorado, a new law takes effect July 1, 2009, that requires all residential properties to have carbon monoxide detectors installed.
This law does not apply to properties that contain no fuel burning heaters, appliances, fireplaces or attach garages.
When a house, condo or apartment is sold or rented to a new party, carbon monoxide detectors must be installed within 10 feet of all legal sleeping rooms. Detectors must be installed at the time of transfer. If already installed, alarms must be confirmed to be operational.There are a variety of carbon monoxide detectors available. Some are hardwired and may be interconnected with other alarms. Some are powered by batteries and others are hardwired with battery backup. Other detectors simply plug into an outlet. Existing smoke alarms can also be replaced with combination carbon monoxide and smoke detectors.
You can find carbon monoxide detectors at your local hardware store, home improvement store or discount store. Some alarms are very simple to install. For others the manufacturer recommends installation by a qualified electrician.
Inspection Perfection provides replacement of existing smoke alarms with top rated combination smoke/carbon monoxide alarms and installation of carbon monoxide and combination smoke/carbon monoxide detectors and by qualified electricians.
(Ed: Carl can be reached at: Inspection Perfection, Inc – 303-816-5556