Fall is finally in the air, and across the country, people are starting to prepare for the cooler weather.  While many of us are looking forward to the leaves changing colors, Halloween, football season with friends, Thanksgiving and Christmas with family, I’d like to ask you to take just a few minutes out of your busy schedules to help make sure it remains a joyous occasion.

Unfortunately, during the fall and winter seasons is when we see an increase in fire & carbon monoxide fatalities. Based off the latest estimates, there were over 40,000 Carbon Monoxide cases requiring some form of hospitalization or care. And a whopping 5,000 deaths in the last year.  And as I mentioned in another article entitled Everything we owned in 2008 there were over 2700 fatalities related to fires.


A Tale of Two Cities :: Birmingham

Birmingham, AL 9.27.2010: Carbon monoxide poisoning killed family of three in Hueytown

The Jefferson County coroner has confirmed that three members of a Hueytown family, who were found dead inside their home Sunday, died from carbon monoxide poisoning.

And while looking up information on the cause of the case above, I stumbled upon this story below.

Birmingham, UK 9.29.2009: Birmingham family saved by carbon monoxide alarm

Fire crews and paramedics were called to West Park Avenue in Northfield at 9.30pm yesterday after the 39-year-old’s wife heard an alarm sound and found him unconscious downstairs. The couple’s two teenage children were also in the house but were not affected by the gas.

I would hope that no one or their family ever has this issue. And I do know which headline I would like to see attached to your story if you do. While I know a few of you are probably saying, “But these concerns only apply to people that have gas appliances – it doesn’t?”

For many years, I have said CO detectors should be located in any house with operable windows. Or at minimum, those homes with gas appliances, an ERV / HRV (Energy and Heat Recovery Ventilator), or with an attached garage.

The Codes Are Changing:

What to Know About Carbon Monoxide FireThe National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) in their 720-2009 codebook changed the codes, requiring a CO detector be located in all new construction.  This rule has also been adopted into the 2009 IRC codes as well. While this may only apply to new construction, there is nothing preventing you from adding them to an existing home.  (For more information, see these articles — NFPA Fact sheet on Carbon Monoxide Safety & HTRC article on proper placement and new codes.)

Make Sure They Work:

Just a few days ago, my friend Paul from DaVinci Remodeling posted on this blog hi, Kick Ass Fall Maintenance List – where he mentions changing out the batteries & vacuuming the unit when Daylight Savings Time starts & stops. Personally, I prefer a Jan. & July schedule but the point is still there – Make sure the detector is working & maintained. If your smoke detectors or CO detectors are more than 5 years old – you should replace them. They have lost half their effectiveness.

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If You Have Gas Appliances:

At least once year, you need to have them checked out & PM’d (Planned Preventative Maintenance) by a licensed HVAC technician. You might want to make sure that the pro tests that the appliance is burning properly. They check the venting, that there is adequate draft, and that there are no issues with “spillover.”

Note:  Generally, you will find that those tests are not part of a normal tune-up. As it increases the cost of the service, this makes it difficult for the pro to compete with others who also do not include these tests in a basic service package.

A Worst Case CAZ Depressurization test is also a good idea if you have never had one done or if you have recently remodeled your house. If you have issues finding a qualified HVAC contractor to do this last test, you may wish to look for one a BPI Certified Building Analyst to complete that test for you.


Note from the hosts:  Thanks to Sean Lintow, Sr (a second time poster at Building Moxie) for providing an informative overview of both the hazards of Carbon Monoxide and Fire in the home as well as some measures that should be taken to prevent against them.  Always welcome, Sean.  You may find Sean on Twitter at @SLSConstruction or blogging @ The HTRC. ~jb