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Carbon Monoxide; The Silent Killer

Carbon monoxide is a silent and deadly danger, and takes thousands of lives all around the world each year.  In fact, people die every year from carbon monoxide poisoning without ever knowing what hit them. They simply slip in to unconsciousness and never come around, or they may already be asleep when they breathe in the carbon monoxide and simply never wake up again.

The sad thing is that many carbon monoxide related deaths could have been avoided with some basic precautions and a little vigilance. 

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By following the simple checklist below, you will make your home safer place this winter.

California has passed a new law that goes into effect January 1, 2011 regarding the use of carbon monoxide detection devices.

This new law, SB 183, enacts the 2010 Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention Act that requires that a carbon monoxide detector be placed in any dwelling that is intended for human occupation. This is true for homeowners as well as owners of rental property.  This law will effect all single family dwellings at transfer of ownership beginning Jan 1, 2011. Owners of existing single-family dwelling units must comply by July 1, 2011.  All others must comply by January 1, 2013.  

Venting Gas Water Heaters and Furnaces. This is a topic that is really important, especially this time of year. As the average temperature continues to drop and move toward freezing our use of gas fired furnaces and water heaters will increase and with it the likelihood that we may develop a problem. All gas fired appliances require fresh air to burn natural gas completely. The incomplete combustion of natural gas results in carbon monoxide (CO). 

Carbon Monoxide is an odorless, colorless, and lethal gas. The only way to detect it is to use special meters. All gas fired appliances installed in a closet require vents open to the attic or crawlspace. Often these interior closets double as storage closets. This additional storage often blocks vents which can lead to incomplete combustion and the introduction of (CO) into your home. This is a potentially life threatening condition.

Here are a few tips to make sure your home doesn’t develop a problem:

(1) Install Carbon Monoxide Detectors in each room, near any gas burning appliances, and in the hallway leading bedrooms

(2) Clear out any closets designed for water heaters or furnaces of any excess storage

(3) Check the ceiling vent opening for a screen. Older homes have screened vents (wire mesh usually) to prevent insulation from falling down into the closet. Unfortunately this insulation with block the vent too. All screens should be removed to prevent blockage. You can build a small wood chase out of 2×8 to prevent insulation from falling down into the closet and keep the opening.

(4) Check the flue pipe to make sure it is properly attached at the top of the appliance

(5) Check that the flue pipe actually terminates above the roof line and not in the attic

(6) Check that the flue pipe rise at least 1 inch for every 6 ft of pipe. This tends to be a problem for appliances installed in basements, crawlspaces, or attics.

(7) Check the flue pipe for excessive rust of corrosion.

(8) Call your local gas and electric compan. They may offer a free home safety inspection.

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