Anyone Up for a Mystery?

plllogMarch 6, 2010

I'm usually hanging around in the Kitchen Forum, but I had so much success learning the right way to wire my euro cooktop in the Wiring forum, I thought I should try you all on my heater mystery, if you're up for it.

Last year in particular, I was noticing that I didn't really like when the heat was on, though I was also sick a lot and couldn't really take anything below 69 degrees. I noticed that I was having some symptoms that sounded like what they talk about on the news for carbon monoxide poisoning, but I was told repeatedly that there was no way my heaters had a carbon monoxide problem. It got warmer, and I started on the unending kitchen remodel, so I just turned the heater off.

Over the summer, when it was very hot and the really heavy construction was done, I did turn on the A/C without any problem, but it was set pretty high (82 upstairs, 74°-78° downstairs)and didn't blow that much that often.

It's a two zone, forced air system installed in 2001.

In October, or so, it got cold and I put the heat on. I felt awful and turned it off. My heater guy again said that it wasn't CO and brought a couple of detectors, in my opinion just to appease me, and changed the filters and HEPA filters just because I asked (he said they weren't really dirty). It was really cold so I ran the heat. And didn't feel well. Since I have a lot of allergies I didn't associate it with the heater right away. About a week after the heat went on, the CO detectors went off.

I cleared the house, and left the heaters off for a week or two. Then I got cold again and turned them back on, and the same thing happened. This time I felt sicker, and a week after turning on the heat the detectors went off. So I turned off the heat and huddled in bed. Now that my kitchen is going to be finished I want to be able to use it in Winter, as well as the rest of my house! I don't want to spend another Winter without heat!!

The heater guy said that there were no cracks in the fireboxes. The gas company man couldn't find any problem at the vents. He thought it might be free ambient CO setting off the detectors, but they've only ever gone off one week after turning on the heat. With the heat off for months they're perfectly quiet.

So I got in another heating company that came highly recommended. They borrowed a very very good sniffer. This guy turned on the heat and started sniffing. The sniffer, which alerted crazily for his exhaust pipe, was finding one and two ppm. Nothing more. He said it doesn't accumulate. He looked at the roof and said that the exhaust is 3' above the air intake so it shouldn't be from that.

All I know is that it's cold again and my hands are like ice. It's time to crawl back in bed like a lump instead of washing dishes and putting the kitchen to rights.

Any notions? Any experiences? Please, can you solve the mystery?

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buy a few more detectors stage em in the heating room and your bed room. when they do go off call the fire department. That way its on record with the city and they will find where it is leaking from. or just get a new furnace.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2010 at 10:24PM
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Nothing makes me think it's the furnace. I would check out the duct system for something that is activated when warm air flows through it.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2010 at 6:27AM
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Perhaps many things are being overlooked during the investigation, such as negative pressure in the house. Everything must be tried and duplicated. Such as use the fireplace, dryer kitchen and bath exhaust fans to simulate all possibilities.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2010 at 12:28PM
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Talk to the former owners or the ones before them. Talk to anyone who has a similar house if your neighborhood was build by the same company.

Tell us about the symptoms you said you had, that reminded you of CO... and compare these to *your* typical reactions to allergens like old dust. Is one of the two zones a place where you feel a lot worse?

Tell us about the ducts. Could they be harboring allergens? Perhaps in summer you are outdoors enough that it doesn't matter enough to trigger reactions. Are the ducts a lot older than 2001?

Tell us more about the machine. It's gas forced air. What else?


    Bookmark   March 7, 2010 at 7:14PM
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i too suspect something in the ductwork. have you had these inspected? it sounds to me like you might have a mold problem. last year, we put a UV air purifier on our furnace and it made an incredible difference.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2010 at 9:05PM
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Thanks for the clues. I haven't had the ducts inspected. It could definitely be mold making me sick. Would it set off the CO detectors?

David, the former owners had condemned furnaces, so they were replaced in 2001 on change of ownership. This isn't a development. The houses are all one of a kind. Mine was a tear down/rebuild that was built in 1986. I assume the ducts have been there since then.

The symptom that most said "CO" to me was cherry red blood. I didn't get a blood test, but I do have frequent bloody noses, and scrapes and know what it's supposed to look like--not a lifesaver! The rest were the "flu-like symptoms" that go away when the heater is shut off. Those could be mold or something. I'm hardly ever outside, especially in Summer when I could get burnt, and the outdoor air is bad for me (pollutants) so I'm much more likely to turn on a little A/C than open a window.

I can't really say if there's a place I feel worse with the heat on, because I turn it off! The CO detector downstairs went off a few hours before the one at the top of the stairs (behind a wall except at the bottom landing).

Gas forced air, in the attic, HEPA filters (two, I assume one for each heater).

JMcQueen, Does mold grow in ducts? How does a UV air purifier help? I've never heard of one. Can you tell me the approximate price range?

The president of the new heater company called me this weekend because I left a message for the technician to say I was turning off the heat. I'm so used to being cold now that I forget that people think it's an emergency. Sigh. It's like camping. Get up and bundle up. Oh! I should mention that cold to me is 60°F. Not life threatening, just miserable. Anyway, the president said that the next thing to do is probably to get out a company with sensors. But I'm still digging out from the kitchen remodel, which isn't even quite done, and there are boxes all over the house. I can't deal with that right now.

I've just learned that Forum people are really smart and sometimes know things a lot more to the point than the pros do. Maybe more experience with "zebras" instead of horses. So I really do appreciate all your input and suggestions!!

    Bookmark   March 8, 2010 at 1:23AM
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Alot of us are pros who like to help out.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2010 at 6:25AM
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If at any time in the last 25 years someone let the ducts carry dusty air, the ducts will be lined with dust growing mold. Even if not, the ducts may still be lined with mold. Slide a thin stick through the grillle / grate down into the ducts and gently scrape the duct wall. Slide it out and see what you have. Or, for more access, simply unscrew the grille and swab the duct walls with a moist cloth on a stick. Someone may have done a partial clea ning job so you may not see anything in the first segment visible to your eyes.

Many symptoms are similar to many others so I wouldn't focus first on CO. Admittedly I would have to re-read your post several times just to get a sense of what testing you've done so far, and when exactly the CO detector sounded (i.e. "went off" ) and then I'd have to compare it to my incomplete knowledge of this subject... so maybe it is, and maybe it isn't CO. The basis for my shifting your attention to the ducts is that your immune system is reacting normally to new stress vectors. Allergies are normal reactions to stressors but because other people don't have these normal reactions, yet, or not as strongly, to the same stressors, we label the reactions as something else (other than normal) . We could call allergies "advance signal reactions" or "strong sensor reactions" --- all that being said, allergies are often strong reactions to non life threats like pollen or feathers and this explains how the current labeling came into being. Even if your symptoms are not like your allergies, there could still be an organic basis for them. Mold produces gases known as mycotoxins, complex molecules which can sometimes be sensed as a smell that everyone agrees they can smell. Many unclear symptoms are similar to many others so I wouldn't focus first on CO. I would look at the components of your mechanical systems. It's like inventorying hard assets instead overviewing financial ratios. "Let's see what we're working with" is an approach that puts aside abstract thoughts and looks at the physical. Ducts are the biggest component so they are worth a long look. If you find they are dirty, we can wonder why your body reaction has been triggered only during heating season, but you will have found something worth improving in the meantime.

If cle aning ducts makes you feel sick temporarily, we may have helped you find a big clue. Today your body may be saying to you "out of sight, out of mind, but not quite, I can still feel it" during heating season only. Hope this motivates you to inspect and c*lean ducts nonetheless and to enjoy it as one more necessary task done, and done right. Indoor Air Quality depends on it being done right so this is worth your time. Last note: IAQ experts say that a body still needs to get out and breathe outdoor air every say (or some other air), and that living and working 24h/24h in the same air creates sensitivity / allergies / reactions. Once a body becomes hypersensitive, it is a long slow process to become less sensitive, since the immune system is an early warning system that is programmed to show its results with power. One can get desensitized over time and develop an ability to spot things without feeling weak or sick. This is like training the immune system to be your dog not your master. You're able to handle construction dust without suffering a body reaction, but not other things. Immune systems are astronomically selective. I'd go looking for an organic stress in the ducts. The surface area of the ducts is 3.14 times the diameter times the length : that could be as much area as your living room walls.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2010 at 9:04AM
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CO detectors go off every-time the gas heat is used?
Why would all of you be suggesting anything else but a potentially dangerous mechanical/venting problem?

    Bookmark   March 8, 2010 at 9:41AM
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The indicators say that the house was checked several times by different people for CO and nothing was found. That's why I don't suspect the furnace.

Maybe a humidifier with mold growth??

    Bookmark   March 8, 2010 at 11:19AM
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I don't know, you put 2 CO detectors in the house and they keep going off. CO is heavy and will settle downward. Since your furnace is upstairs, CO is still a possibility and would probably take a while to accumilate due to the space/volume.

An ultraviolet (UV) filter kills airborn pathogens.

Cleaning the ducts would not be a bad idea.

If you've been stuck in this house with construction going on, painting fumes, dust, new cabinets outgassing, etc, its no wonder you're feeling sick.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2010 at 4:55PM
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I meant no disrespect or insult to the pros here! The pros I've been employing are good men who have been doing HVAC for decades and genuinely want to help, but don't know what to look for next. Forum dwellers, maybe because they're experienced problem solvers, often have good ideas. That's all I meant. Any clues you all have, pro or interested amateur, are gratefully accepted!

There's no humidifier. This is SoCal, so even though it's deserty, I'm near enough to the ocean for it to also be fairly damp. We have all kinds of molds, and I wouldn't be surprised if it were some kind of heat activated mold, as Baymee suggested, that was making me feel sick. That's not so worrisome. The kitchen is nearly done, and I can have the ducts cleaned. That might be what's giving me a headache and cough long before the CO alarm sounds.

The cherry red blood is the only symptom I've had that made me jump to think CO. That, and the repeated sounding of the (not cheap) CO alarms only when the heat was on. I can live with allergies, and know what to do for remediation. CO is another story, and I'm not convinced it's not the problem.

I'm very interested in what Weedmeister says about CO accumulating. Everyone keeps telling me that doesn't happen, yet CO is heavy and will settle downward...and would probably take a while to accumilate due to the space/volume exactly describes what seems to be happening here. The house is 3100 sq. ft., evenly distributed between the two floors, with the closed stair (no door) the only open area between them. It took a few hours the first time the downstairs detector sounded for the detector which was moved to across the hall from the stairs to sound.

But there's no outgassing and not too much dust, other that what has settled on the covers over the furniture. The actual construction was done last Spring, and the cabinets were primarily installed in the Summer. The tiling was done in January into February, but most of the dust was outside, and tile dust is heavy, so what there was settled in the kitchen and was cleaned up. There were shrouds between the kitchen and dining room and the rest of the house. The kitchen door has only been open for a couple of weeks--after all of the dust making was long over and cleaned. The cabinets are all zero VOC materials, and low VOC finish, as is the paint. I'm very allergic to formaldehyde but I could be in there within hours of painting or varnish and be able to breathe. During the heavy construction I used the respirator mask I have for working with aerosolized paint and reactive dyes to visit the kitchen. I've been okay in the rest of the house so long as the heater is off. I did run the air during the Summer.

You say UV filters kills pathogens. Does that include molds? Or just bacteria and viruses?

    Bookmark   March 8, 2010 at 9:55PM
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headache? nausea? flu-like symptoms? fatigue? drowsiness?

That's CO poisoning.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2010 at 2:05AM
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I have to respectfully disagree about CO. It is about the same density as air and mixes well. It should be evenly distributed in your house, not laying low like CO2 would do.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2010 at 7:02AM
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Carbon dioxide is a bit heavier and sinks when there are no air currents.
Carbon monoxide is the same weight/ mass / size as the other gases in air. It cannot sink. It cannot collect or accumulate.

The OP said: ".... My heater guy again said that it wasn't CO and brought a couple of detectors ... About a week after the heat went on, the CO detectors went off." That is seven days . The OP also said"... they've only ever gone off one week after turning on the heat." And also, "... finding one and two ppm. Nothing more."

In the Home Repair forum, another Kitchen person came and asked the same question at the same time. Link below.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2010 at 9:16AM
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Any rugs in the house ???????

    Bookmark   March 9, 2010 at 9:51AM
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David, I don't understand what I was supposed to learn from the linked thread, beyond others saying what you'd just said that CO doesn't sink.

The question isn't really sinking, but accumulating. If it's coming from the downstairs heater only it still makes sense that, if it accumulates, that it could take a few hours for the amount that's putting it over the top to mix up the stairs and set off the upstairs detector (and also why going upstairs wouldn't diminish the flu-like symptoms). The house isn't 100% airtight, but it is insulated and double glazed. Because I work at home, and especially with the bad weather this year, restricted activities waiting around for tile to come last Fall when I tried the heat, and nowhere to read the paper, days at a time might go by without opening a door or window. When it's cold, they certainly don't stand open.

The instructions that came with the detectors say that one must air out the house before returning after the alarm sounds, which implies that the CO won't dissipate by itself. Also, pressing the reset on the detectors just makes them sound again after five minutes--I've had to unplug them (for the neighbors' comfort), and air out the house for at least six hours before they could be plugged in again without sounding (heater turned off again).

Can CO accumulate or not? That seems to be the big question that I'm getting conflicting answers to.

Big Al, There aren't any installed carpets. Just a couple of Persian rugs (one wool, one silk and wool), and a small wool needlepoint rug.

Weedmeister, yes, I had those symptoms, but they could also be a sinus infection, or even a bad allergy attack. It was the lifesavers candy red blood on top of it that made me think CO, and then the detectors detecting CO.

A few weeks ago (long after the times the heat was on long enough for the detectors to sound), one of the workmen forgot where he was and opened a can of thinner in the kitchen. Even with the barriers, the fumes moved pretty fast into the living area. I had a fit and had to stand in the cold on the porch for an hour while the house was airing out, but that's the only new chemical. There's definitely dust, though it's the same old dust, and there could certainly be molds. The heat activated mold, or whatever, in the ducts makes logical sense with what has happened, except it doesn't explain the cherry red blood or the detectors going off.

What besides CO makes CO detectors sound the alarm?

    Bookmark   March 9, 2010 at 7:08PM
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Well, if it were me and my house, if I had a headache and nausea and the CO detectors were screaming, I wouldn't be thinking about a sinus attack. (and I get those also) I'm with Whvac: turn on the heat and when the detectors go off, leave the heat on, leave the house and call the FD.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2010 at 10:09PM
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CO is accumulative in your blood. Maybe a blood test will tell??? I'm no doctor.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2010 at 10:23PM
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baymee i think it's not valid to say CO is accumulative, in the absolute sense, The antidote for CO is to breathe oxygen. This happens whenever we breathe air that has no CO.

plllog a couple people above have read your post to mean there is enough CO to be serious.

But pllog, I think 1ppm is small. Did they see this number? I rewrote the narrative to shorten it to the facts.

Now you've added more information, so the CO hypothesis will take on a life of its own.... perhaps it is the only hypothesis to merit investigating. My sense is that yes you certainly *may* or do have one of the symptoms, that itself *May* be associated, sometimes, with CO, and may be an indicator, but that this weak indicator ought not deter us from shining a light onto other avenues of exploration. The human immune system is complex, and your home environment is currently complex too.

Your house isn't airtight and is insulated. This is often the case, no disrespect. I wonder if the pink or yellow scratchy itchy fiberglas fibers are affecting you. Since you breathe nothing but this indoor air, 24 hours out of 24, 7 days a week, and since you have allergies, I think this is worth asking and investigating.

Soon the mystery will be solved. Meantime, get out of the house more often instead of waiting until your body forces you to.


    Bookmark   March 9, 2010 at 11:25PM
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You have not said.... do you have a sealed combustion furnace [Plastic exhaust vent]?

More than likely you do not. You exhibit classic symptoms of CO poisoning.

Find a BPI Certified person who will perform a back draft and pressure test. From what I have read of your posts this most likely the case.

In fact - since your ducts are original and the blower was replaced in 2001 - it is almost certainly a contributing factor. Study from 1997 observed that most ducts leak 25% or more of the air to outside conditioned space. For easy numbers, say you have a 2.5 ton system - then it should be moving around 1000cfm. Now what if 25% or 250 cfm is being lost to the outdoors? You now have strong negative pressure in the house? Where is the replacement 250 cfm coming from?

Simple answer - from the easiest source. It may be backdrafting the furnace flue, the water heater flue, etc. Very dangerous - this exact scenario has killed people.

How much air is 1 CFM? About the size of a square milk crate.

Excellent primer on the subject:

One study:
"In one of the houses (#3), the water heater spilled [CO] whenever the basement door was shut and the air handler was operating, due solely to basement depressurization from leaky return ducts."

Sadly most HVAC crews are not knowledgeable enough to track down these sort of problems....

Hope this helps,

BTW a UV filter is not going to do squat for mold in the ducts unless they were installed at each register. Air goes in the return is UV zapped on one-side-or-the-other of the blower and then travels through the ducts where it may be picking up contaminants. - Looking inside a duct will give you a quick answer. Are they smooth wall metal or vinyl flex? Then very unlike to be an issue. Metal with fiber linings? Maybe dirty and can't really be cleaned.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2010 at 11:26PM
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Oh, thank-you Andy Bell!! This is exactly the kind of information I needed!! A hypothesis and a place to start! I'll read your references tomorrow, when I'm awake, and get started on finding someone in to do the testing.

I've acclimated better than I thought I ever could to being cold all the time, but even just a few days of being away overnight in a heated house resets my expectations and I end up crying when I come home.

Baymee and Weedmeister, my blood is back to normal. The last time I had the heat on for more than a few hours was November. I haven't been able to bear leaving it on since, and with the end of the construction, the coming holiday, and all my other work, I just don't have time to go live elsewhere while it runs and sets off the alarm again.

David, It's only when the heat is on that I have a problem. The reason I'm pursuing the CO thing is to make sure whether it is or isn't CO. I can deal with the rest (duct cleaning, mold abatement, or whatever). I just want to be absolutely sure I'm not pumping poison into my house before I stop looking for what's setting off the CO alarms. The one ppm was right after turning on the furnaces after they'd been off for a week, and had only been on for a few hours in several months.

I have no idea what kind of heaters they are. (I know. I'm such a girl. I should know things like that, especially with these problems, but they're up through a hatch in the attic, and, generally, I'm happy when I flip a switch and there's heat.) Everyone keeps saying there can't be CO if there isn't a cracked firebox. Is that sealed combustion?

    Bookmark   March 10, 2010 at 1:56AM
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I lived for a number of months in a house with a cracked heat exchanger in our oil furnace that had been red tagged - and we shouldn't have been using. I moved our bird to my mother's and put CO alarms all over the house from the basement up, and in bedrooms. Never had one go off, thankfully, and now I have a geothermal system so no more fossil fuel to worry about.

But, I do know that living with the threat and risk of CO is not to be taken lightly. Had one alarm gone off, we'd have been out of the house in a shot and the fire department called. Forget relying on anyone else.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2010 at 1:21AM
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When using fuel oil, you'll know by the odor when you have a cracked heat exchanger or other problem. You'll know before the CO gets bad enough. Gas, on the other hand, is the reason for CO detectors. It's the silent killer.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2010 at 6:18AM
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Dear pilllog, hi. Your query has caused me to delurk. I follow the GW LD and Kitchen forums. GW said my original note here made GW unhappy. Why? It suggested profanity or illegal HTML strings or some such nonsense. So you won't get my carefully worded story of grief and pathos. Just the facts, Ma'am, just the facts.

It was a very cold winter around '90-91 or so, furnace running constantly and I was not feeling well. Was congested, always felt more tired than normal, almost dizzy, just not right. So told landlord, furnace is making me sick, blah, blah. After a few weeks of her doing nothing I called a repairman who said the firebox was cracked and condemned the furnace.

Anyway, after about four years my little cat person had to be put to sleep because her lungs weren't working anymore.

After about three more years I came down with one of the worst cases of asthma my pulmonist has ever seen in decades of practice. Out of a clear blue sky, I might add.

After 14 years I was diagnosed with a particularly nasty bone cancer. At 56 I look about 85 on a good day. Lack of oxygen to our tissues is not a pretty thing to see.

You do the math.

Anyway, gotta go, I'm tired. Got back from an ER run late last night. Started Wed am. Couldn't breathe, asthma meds don't help that much anymore.

So do your own math:
--CO detectors are going off in your home because there is CO present.
--CO can kill you if it's merciful. If not merciful, it can make you wish it had killed you.
--Get out of that house, ASAP.
--Call a lawyer.

It's not your job to determine or fix the problem.


PS-Sorry this is so 8itchy, I'm just too tired to try to make it sound nice. This really pushes my buttons, I hope you are OK.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2010 at 4:53PM
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JMarie, thank-you for sharing your story. I feel so bad for you! The heaters are off and have been since the CO detectors went off for the second time. They've been on for scant hours when the heating repairmen have been here since. Luckily my idea of bitter cold is other people's idea of Summer. I'm all wrapped up in layers and if I were getting hypothermic (which can happen as high as 60°F) I'd go stay with someone. Sheepskin slippers, an acrylic scarf wrapped around my head, and the aforesaid layers are fine.

I don't need a lawyer--I need someone who can find the problem. I haven't had time to follow up on Andy Bell's suggestion, but it's one I'm going to pursue. I read the referenced pages but didn't really understand what I was looking at. I didn't understand zl700's first post either, though it seems to address similar issues. But it is my job to help determine what the problem is. It's my house, and I'm the one who's cold. The better I can understand what could cause the problem, the better I'll be able to find someone who can fix it.

I promise I'm not taking the CO risk lightly!! I can survive being cold. I'm not taking a chance with poison gas!

    Bookmark   March 13, 2010 at 1:27PM
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Both Z and AB are talking about negative presssure from the furnace (and even the dryer). A quick way to see if you have it is to turn on the furnace FAN ONLY. Then go to a door and crack it open. Feel a draft? (you can't do this on a windy day) If you do, that is caused by negative pressure. This 'suction' pressure can pull the exhaust fumes back inside for the water heater (you didn't say if you have a gas WH) and sometimes the furnace. The furnace guys may be looking a just the firebox and/or furnace exhaust vents and not finding a problem. They may need to be looking farther, which is what AB is saying.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2010 at 5:58PM
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Thanks for the simple explanation, Weedmeister. And yes, they need to be looking farther!

    Bookmark   March 13, 2010 at 10:54PM
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Sophie Wheeler

What other gas fired appliances do you have in the home? Water heater? Fireplace? Gas range? Do any of them share a flue? Have you recently added more insulation to the home, replaced windows, or caulked to limit drafts? Have you added a new vent fan for your kitchen with high CFMs?

You have to analyze the possible production points for the CO, as well as the vents used to exit those combustion products as well as other routes of air infiltration/exit to the home. Backdrafting gas appliances are a major reason that makeup air is now required in many locations when installing kitchen ventilation.

It's like trying to use a straw to suck the air out of a plastic sandwich bag. You can suck the available air out for a while, but unless you supply additional air through a vent, you won't be able to suck air for long. And, if there is another vent in that bag with another straw attached that is supposed to have air moving out of the bag, instead of that vent actually venting the air/combustion byproducts out of that bag, you end up sucking air into the bag to go out the straw you are sucking on. The combustion byproducts never leave your home.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2010 at 11:44PM
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Um... There were symptoms last year before the kitchen remodel, but the CO alarms were in the fall. There is a gas water heater in a closet set into the wall with an exterior door. I think it has it's own flue straight up. The heater serviceman did check it, and the exhaust pipe and thought that wasn't the problem.

There's another gas water heater in a shed behind my studio, separate building, completely not part of the main house. There are gas starters in the fireplaces that I've never used. The gas dryer only gets used an average of 6 times per month--but not since last April until a couple of weeks ago because of the remodel. It's been unhooked in the dining room. Not a factor when the alarms went off.

I added the vent hood in the old kitchen, but wasn't cooking much in the year before the remodel for various reasons. The new hood is twice as powerful, and goes in next week. There might have been some insulation added in the attic when I bought the house. I change out a couple of windows in the kitchen during the rough construction last Spring. I think some gaskety things were added to the french doors in the dining room and living room, but they're still not 100% airtight.

During the construction there has been plastic sheeting over the whole dining room opening and the kitchen door, isolating the back of the house. The air intakes are in the middle, but on the main house side.

I was told that the volume of my house meant that make up air wasn't required for the new hood. I hope that's true, or I'm going to be having to open a window, because that's how the room was created. The CO problem has nothing to do with the new, not installed, hood, however.

The only thing going during the time when the alarms went off was the water heater. The only cooking appliance during that time was a microwave in the front of the house.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2010 at 12:23AM
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Unless I missed something above, nobody has ever measured any appreciable CO in your house and yet most of this discussion has been about CO.

I would get a pro in there to check for CO under various circumstances and either rule this in or out and then maybe start looking for something else.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2010 at 6:03AM
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CJ Mechanical of North jersey llc.

If you were in the northern jersey area I would come to you
for a free inspection.
manual J load calulation to make sure the proper size furnace is installed.Oil furnace I would do a complete cumbustion test,next I would do a static pressure test on the system to verify proper airflow.Duct work can be so out of whack that it can create negitive in the house allso inspect return air for dust/dirt/mold from over the years.
I would recommend someone who is Certified by NCI.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2010 at 3:36PM
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Coolmen, thanks for the kind thought.

Baymee, the talk of CO is only because that is the scariest thing and I want it positively ruled out before I let it go.

I'm currently sleep deprived for other reasons so haven't pursued it this last week. I'm overloaded and it was 80°F out today.

I really do appreciate all of your interest and suggestions and will let you know when I find something out.

Thanks to all!

    Bookmark   March 17, 2010 at 2:29AM
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Locate a company that does combustion testing. Have them measure the undiluted flue gases from burner light off to air circulation blower turn on. CO levels should go down after light and before the blower comes on. If the levels remain above 100 parts per million before the blower comes on there is a problem with the furnace. If the levels go down below 100 ppm before the blower comes and then rises again when the blower comes on there is a problem with the furnace.

Have a worst case testing done operating all gas appliances and exhaust blowers on.Bathroom, kitchen exhausts clothes dryer(s).

Have co/combustion test done all of the gas appliances especially gas stoves.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2010 at 2:00PM
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Thanks! Sounds like good advice.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2010 at 9:13PM
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plllog it may be good to mention that this CO hunt may be too much too soon; it reminds me of someone wanting to rule out "disease __" (pick any one) when they have various and sundry vague symptoms.

As one person has pointed out, the reading you got of one part per million is a low reading.
As another person has pointed out, your house is a source of several health stress factors.
As another person has pointed out, your pre existing health is another factor.
Your narrative in your first post may have caused some readers to simply agree there was OC.
Your narrative in your first post is seriously lacking in rigor, not like you.
You have hunches, and don't we all, but let's try to collect some facts.
Here is one fact-collecting idea: If i were there, i might recruit a friend and turn on the house heat for a time interval, and see what effects it causes.
You need more data.
Getting healthier in general, and getting to the source of anything specific, are goals i would agree to help you with.
Getting more eyeballs on your equipment is a great idea. I mean ducts furnace etc.
Inventorying, listing what stuff you have in the house is a good start.
It's more data.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2010 at 9:59AM
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p111og, You mentioned that the gas co. thought that the intake and exhaust pipes being the distance that was called for should be OK but did anybody actually verify it. You must remember that these units are made for sale all over the country and not every place has the same conditions. In my experience a CO detector is just that. The 3 ft. is minimum standard code or what the manufacturer wants. It doesn't mean it's right for your application. Did he try extending the pipe to make sure that's not the problem. Wind conditions,trees,location can all cause backfraft problems. It's a small fix if it works. Put a coupling on the exhaust pipe and raise it up and see what happens.When they checked the heat exchanger did they do the smoke bomb test. From what you're saying it sounds like CO troubles. Mold and all the other mentions are obviously not good for your health but I've never seen them set off a CO detector. My neighbor put a woodstove in the garage and exhaust out the roof. Some days we don't know it's on and other days we get all his smoke.Depends on the draft conditions of the day. Minimum are just guidelines, every job is different.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2010 at 5:31PM
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pllog - My two cents worth. But a lot of thought it appears has been given this here! You had mentioned your heating units located in an attic area "up through a hatch". In that they were installed in 2001, it's hard for me to think they would likely be gravity vent, but where did they come from? Is the attic ventilated? A gravity vent in a cold space may have minimal venting capability on a cold start. Couple that with a poorly installed filter access or a substantial leak in a return air intake in an unconditioned, tight, unventilated area and it would take very little negative pressure to reverse it. Possibly when the "attic hatch" or scuttle hole is opened during inspection enough air is being allowed into the space to prevent this from happening, hiding the effect that a normal operation when closed is producing. This does not negate the possibility of the same thing occuring with a draft induced (power vented) exhaust system if the space were tight enough and the unit has not been direct vented, (provided with combustion air) although most units since the 80's employ features to shut them down if this were to happen.
Curious! - let us all know when you find the problem! Good luck!

    Bookmark   March 25, 2010 at 10:17PM
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