View Full Version : Possible Sources of Household Carbon Monoxide?

04-08-2009, 10:37 PM
Twice so far in the past 3 months (that we're aware of, anyway), the two Carbon Monoxide detectors in my girlfriend's apartment have gone off. Each time, they were peaking at 60-70ppm and staying at 40-50ppm for several minutes. In both cases, we opened some windows, went outside for 10 minutes or so, then came back to find both detectors at zero. Both occurances were at night, and the heat was on the first time, but not the second (we haven't turned on the heat in over a month).

Had it just happened once, I may have dismissed it as some sort of freak occurance and not thought much more about it (perhaps not the safest idea, I realize!), but now that it's happened twice it definitely seems concerning. What are some possible explanations for these occasional spikes in CO? Prior to this year, there had not been any elevated levels in this apartment--or at least not high enough/prolonged enough to set off the detectors. Are there standard items we should check ourselves? Things we should have the landlord check? Fire department?

This is a second-floor apartment in a Cambridge MA three-decker. It's got gas heat/stove/hot water, with the furnace and water heaters in the basement. We didn't hear any detectors going off in the other two apartments in the building, although I suppose there are no guarantees that the other tenants have these in place.

04-08-2009, 10:53 PM
You need to identify all sources of potential combustion in the building. Since it is an apartment building, contact the landlord for help.

Snnipe 70E
04-08-2009, 11:12 PM
The heater in the basement, is it one heater for all units or does the heater just serve your unit?

If the heatexchanger in the furnace has a crack it can bleed CO from the fire box to the fresh air side.

Oven is a posibality.

If the vent pipe has a leak and runs up the wall of your unit that is also a posibablity.

Yes I would cnotact your landlord. If he will not check it outnext time leave the apartment closed, get out and call the fire department. Your landlord should be willing to call in a hvac teck.

04-09-2009, 10:13 AM
Thanks! Call to the landlord would seem to be a good next step.

Snnipe 70E - each unit has its own furnace, but all three are side-by-side in the basement. I don't recall whether the vent pipe(s) run outside the building or up through the walls to the roof.

04-09-2009, 10:34 AM
Could be that one of the other tenants is using some kind of internal combustion heater -- kerosene or propane -- without adequate ventilation.

04-09-2009, 10:40 AM
How old is the detector you are using? What brand is it.
I have responded to many calls for detector's going off and it is very hard to detect the source in some cases.
One time it was flatulence :eek: that was with the old 1st alert detectors that were way too sensitive.
But on the serious side, the problem needs to be investigated.
The neighbors should be alerted also and detectors should be provided/procured.
Good luck,
God Bless

04-09-2009, 04:30 PM
FWIW I think that cast iron, which is often used to make stoves and furnaces, becomes permeable to carbon monoxide when it is hot enough. This killed many people in England a century or so ago, and was an insidious and unexpected source.

Harmonious Discord
04-09-2009, 05:04 PM
Call the landlord and if he doesn't end up finding the problem you need to possibly call the fire department when it happens. Give the landlord a chance to deal with it, but this is dangerous, so call the fire department when it happens. What affects one apartment can affect all the apartments.

04-09-2009, 06:11 PM
Also, FWIW, I think there may be a number of legal protections for the renter in this case. I read up on tenant's rights in Massachusetts when I moved in a few months ago. Here's (http://www.mass.gov/?pageID=ocaterminal&L=4&L0=Home&L1=Consumer&L2=Housing+Information&L3=Tenant+%26+Landlord&sid=Eoca&b=terminalcontent&f=tenants_rights_and_responsibilities&csid=Eoca) an overview of the relevant local law. It doesn't mention CO directly, but it doesn't contain relevant codes in full. Basically, if you get the place inspected by the local board of health, and they agree that there's something dangerously wrong, you can withhold rent or break your lease if your landlord doesn't fix the problem.

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