Carbon Monoxide Detectors – the LAST line of defense

The Headline

“15-month-old girl saved family from carbon monoxide leak” was the headline in the Province News Paper a few years ago when this blog was first written.  We always reflect on carbon monoxide (CO) this time of year as heating systems are started and doors and windows are closed tightly.

The Lesson

The article glosses over the fact that the poisonous exhaust gas came from their failing furnace, or better yet, how it could have been avoided.  More to the point is how important it is to be getting annual service and safety checks, as strongly recommended by Fortis BC, and the GAS SAFETY BRANCH of BC.  It is very fortunate that this family did not die; however, their message that everyone should get carbon monoxide detectors, while good advice, misses that important primary step.

The Last Resort

CO Detectors should be the last resort.  Once it gets to the point where your carbon monoxide detector is triggered, it’s often too late for options like repair.  This family now has an unplanned bill in the thousands of dollars for the total replacement of their furnace.

False Economy

Spending money on servicing a furnace or boiler is often avoided since it doesn’t produce obvious results like haircuts or grocery shopping.  The truth is, with regular service, your family has the option to become aware that the levels of carbon monoxide might be increasing long before they become dangerous.  Using a tool called a Manometer (which should be pronounced Man-o-meter, but sadly isn’t) R&B technicians can measure carbon monoxide emissions of your furnace through all levels of fire, and detect rising or dangerous levels long before your detector will.

How is that possible?

Well, carbon monoxide is neither heavier nor lighter than air.  This means that unless some air movement or natural convection moves the air up to your ceiling mounted detectors, or down to the floor level ones, concentrations can become quite high.

What you should do

The most important message of the Province article should have been that annual safety checks on all your gas-fired appliances are necessary to keep them running safely and efficiently so this (or worse) doesn’t happen to you.

This odorless gas cannot be smelled.  Don’t rely on your detector.  If you’re experiencing any of the top warning signs call us immediately.

  • A dull headache.
  • Weakness.
  • Dizziness.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Confusion.
  • Dead houseplants are a sign – but only if you’re normally good at caring for houseplants!

This is an emergency.  Otherwise, call R&B to pre-book your annual furnace or boiler service at 604-980-1369.