Keeping your family safe – carbon monoxide detectors now mandatory!
October 16, 2014
Every couple of years we get exposed to a terrible tragedy where people die from carbon monoxide poisoning in their homes, an odourless gas coming from a gas appliance – usually your furnace. In a move that will inevitably save lives, the Ontario government has made carbon monoxide detectors mandatory in homes.
In fact statistics have shown that on average 11 people die annually from carbon monoxide poisoning in Ontario alone. How does this gas get into the house? My chemistry loving daughter reminds me that “carbon monoxide is the result of incomplete combustion, dad.” So, every appliance that has some sort of combustion (furnaces, bbq’s, stoves, dryers, boilers) has the potential to emit carbon monoxide. The problem is that since CO is colorless, odorless, and tasteless, we are poorly prepared to recognize when it’s happening. Since CO exposure reduces a person’s ability to think clearly the situation becomes dramatically more serious.
If you’re like me, it’s nice to know that carbon monoxide comes from incomplete combustion, but it still doesn’t tell me how it gets in the home. From what I can tell, it comes principally from two situations. Unfortunately, they both involve your furnace. Why not from the other appliances? Because all of the others are either outdoors (BBQ) or are vented outside of the forced air stream (fans over stoves, vents piped on boilers and dryers). Yes, furnaces are vented, but it can’t completely eliminate the possibility of CO escaping into the rest of the house.
Your gas furnace has a nozzle that the natural gas/propane is fed through to a flame which heats up a large metal object called a heat exchanger. The air from your return ducts is dragged across this hot metal object, absorbing the heat, and is pushed through the rest of the house through the supply ducts. If the nozzle is not set up properly the combustion gases can get into the forced air stream and in minutes is distributed around the house. Have a licensed technician look at your furnace periodically to ensure that it is set up to deliver maximum efficiency AND SAFETY!
When furnaces are not serviced regularly – or just become old, the constant shock of hot and cold can stress the metal in the heat exchanger to the point where it cracks. Once a crack develops the venting on the furnace can’t siphen the CO from the air stream – again distributing it throughout the house quickly and efficiently. Licensed technicians are trained in spotting cracked heat exchangers and if identified are OBLIGATED to condemn the furnace.
We applaud the government for taking this small cost effective step toward ensuring household safety – the cost is small, the effect is huge. Ask your furnace technician for his advice on which detector is most effective – and sleep soundly knowing your family is safe.
By Peter Wagner
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