TESTING EVERY FLAME-fired appliance you come into contact with is a move in the right direction. We discussed why you need to do this in last month’s column (“Do you test your gas appliances for CO?” January, pg. 32).
But just owning an instrument does not guarantee that you know what you are doing with it. Many people get their combustion analyzer, start it up, run it through the paces and have absolutely no idea what it is that they’re looking at. It’s kind of like the home inspectors with the natural gas detectors picking up trace gases at the shut-off valves to the gas-fired appliances, raising red flags and having gas valves replaced when it is not necessary. They don’t know what they are doing. They’re just trying to justify their jobs, and the equipment that they have invested in.
So, owning an instrument is only part of the program. Knowing how to interpret the readings and being capable of making corrections to the equipment to eliminate problems are essential.
Carbon monoxide comes from many sources for many reasons, and, if you are not capable of making the diagnosis and correcting the problem, you’re not doing the whole job. It requires training, and that training can come from different sources.
Instrument manufacturers are an excellent resource. They can typically tell you how to interpret the readings, but when it comes to making specific recommendations on how to correct the problems, they can fall short. There are too many unfamiliar situations for them to wade into. Don’t get me wrong; they are a must if you are to understand their analyzer. But they can’t tell you what to do to all the gas- and oil-fired equipment that you will come across in the field.
Many independent training companies are floating around out there. One, in particular, that I have had personal experience with is The National Comfort Institute. Its expert CO trainer is Jim Davis. He is passionate about his teaching and brings 25 years’ worth of field experience to the table. There is not a condition or situation that Jim has not seen. There’s not an analyzer that he has not personally taken apart, repaired and reassembled.
When you leave Jim’s course, you will know everything there is to know about the production, testing, diagnosis and elimination of carbon monoxide. You will also know how to understand the meaning of all the data that your combustion analyzer presents to you, and which data to ignore.
When I took Jim’s class, I thought to myself, “Man, everything I thought I knew is wrong, and the things I don’t know could kill someone.”
His class is an eye-opening experience, and well worth the money and time spent. Take the time to learn how to use your instrument correctly and understand what the instrument is telling you, or you might as well not even own the instrument. There are not enough books in the world that can teach you in a lifetime what Jim can teach you in 212 days.
For more information on the National Comfort Institute and Jim Davis’ carbon monoxide classes, go to www.nationalcomfortinstitute.com, or give them a call at 800/633-7058. Do it today, before you possibly get poisoned by the leading cause of inadvertent poisoning in America today, carbon monoxide poisoning.
Now, for your edification, here are a few sobering facts about carbon monoxide poisoning gleaned from the ComfortInstitute.org Website.
- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CO poisoning accidentally kills more than 500 Americans each year. Tens of thousands are sickened, many suffering permanent physiological and nervous system damage.
- Harmful levels of CO can occur in virtually any home. There is no acceptable low level.
- Carbon monoxide sources include gas and oil furnaces, boilers and water heaters, vehicles in attached garages, gas- or wood-burning fireplaces, space heaters, barbecue grills, electric generators, lawn mowers and power equipment, gas ranges and ovens and electric ovens when self-cleaning.
- Any of these can cause CO to build up to harmful levels. Every home needs at least one CO alarm, even “all electric” homes.
Carbon monoxide symptoms
Any combination of the following symptoms may be due to CO exposure, especially if the symptoms are chronic or noticed by more than one person at the same time: headache, fatigue, muscle pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, confusion, memory loss, chest pain, rapid heart beat, rapid breathing, shortness of breath, and changes in vision, hearing, touch, taste or smell.
Many doctors now agree that long-term exposure of CO levels as low as 10 ppm can lead to both mental and physical problems
Most fire departments require that firefighters wear their oxygen masks if CO levels are 35 ppm or higher
A recent Southern Gas Association survey revealed that more than 80% of the responding gas companies routinely “red-tagged” or shut off household appliances when they found CO at a level of 10 ppm or more.
Low-level CO monitors are recommended for households with young children, the elderly, pregnant women, and people with chronic medical conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, heart disease or anemia.
Carbon monoxide poisoning can be prevented with regular testing of combustion appliances. Do your part to help prevent accidental poisonings and possible death. The life you save may be your own.
Mark Eatherton is a Denver-based hydronics contractor. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 303/778-7772.