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Contractor Survey...

Obviously, carbon monoxide is a part of our daily lives. Most everyone knows someone who knows someone who has been exposed to CO, some with grave results.



As a contractor, who is in the consumers homes on a daily basis, how many contractors are capitalizing on this opportunity, and potentially saving lives?



What kind of advertising are you doing to let people know about these services?



What kind of services do you offer? CAZ worst case scenario? CO detector sales? Analysis and cleaning?



Don't be afraid. Step up to the podium and let us know what you are doing? Or not.



ME
It's not so much a case of "You got what you paid for", as it is a matter of "You DIDN'T get what you DIDN'T pay for, and you're NOT going to get what you thought you were in the way of comfort". Borrowed from Heatboy.

Comments

  • MikeyB
    MikeyB Member Posts: 696
    Survey

    Good morning ME, when I worked w/licensed plumbing/heating contractors in the late 80's into the mid 90's we never checked the equipment we serviced or installed for combustion, frankely I didnt no much about checking for draft other than the "match" test.Still being involved in the HVAC trades I can see just how important these tests are with the equipment that are out there in the field , I recently just purchased my first Comubtion Analyzer (Fryite Insight) Although I do not use it at my present position, no fuel burning HVAC equip here other than our emergency generator on the roof. But nevertheless I am very interested in learing as much as I can about the combustion side of things, and most important about preventing the production of CO, Thanks again for all you do Mark, and for recommending this page on the Wall. Sorrry if my respose has not much to do with your questions looking forward to what teh other guys have to say.
  • Mark Eatherton
    Mark Eatherton Member Posts: 5,839
    Minnesota Wayne posted....

    What is the universal standard to be used fo CO?

    There are guidelines and recommendations for CO levels. As an industry, are we going to come up with hard and fast rules?

    I would like a very definitive answer to the question of how much CO is too much. I am very aware of the limits and guide lines. 9 ppm of co for prolonged exposure, 35 ppm for a 8 hour work day etc.

    When testing co in a home,

    1- Who makes the call of high CO levels? What authority do they have? Who will back the tech (company)?

    2- As a technician, what number do you use to sound the alarm of high CO levels. 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, ppm? Do you use a higher number?

    3- If there are smoker in the household/business, how much background CO is allowed before sounding the alarm?

    4- What are the requirements for a business with food cooking appliances?

    5- What is the definition of a healthy adult? Where do we find this & how to interrupt the definition?

    6- Firefighters use 35 ppm before wearing the self contained breathing apparatus gear. At the same time 35 ppm is allowed in a work environment for an 8 hour day. Is this a conflict? If it is not safe for a firefighter, why is it safe for a worker?

    7- What is the guide line for a 10 hour day?

    8- How many have been in construction environments that have a CO detector on site and alarming, yet no one does anything about the high co levels?

    If some techs are sounding the alarm, red tagging equipment, testing for CO on every job, correcting high CO burning appliances and tuning them to manufactures specifications, how does the industry bring the majority of non believers on board?

    What is going to be the uniform standards that can be referenced to for all situations?

    Thank you for allowing me to ask the questions and bring forward my concerns



    Minnesota Wayne
    It's not so much a case of "You got what you paid for", as it is a matter of "You DIDN'T get what you DIDN'T pay for, and you're NOT going to get what you thought you were in the way of comfort". Borrowed from Heatboy.
  • Mark Eatherton
    Mark Eatherton Member Posts: 5,839
    Marks response...

    Great questions all Wayne, and there is only one correct answer, that being "It Depends", but you already knew that.



    What is the universal standard to be used fo CO?

    There are numerous standards that apply, depending upon the application. The in flue gas stream is usually dictated by the appliance manufacturer, but in no case is allowed to exceed 400 PPM. But if you have an appliance with a CO reading of 300 PPM, you have a potentially deadly situation on your hands. It's OK so long as everything keeps drafting correctly, but if not, then lives could be at stake. Bottom line, if you worked on it last, and something (God forbid) does go wrong, rest assured you will be named in a wrongful death lawsuit. If you documented an unsafe condition, get the customers signature acknowledging it, and their denial of recommended services. This is not going to keep you from being co named, but will give you some wiggle room should it go to trial.







    There are guidelines and recommendations for CO levels. As an industry, are we going to come up with hard and fast rules? To the best of my knowledge, WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get)



    I would like a very definitive answer to the question of how much CO is too much. I am very aware of the limits and guide lines. 9 ppm of co for prolonged exposure, 35 ppm for a 8 hour work day etc.



    I THINK you have to establish your own guidelines as it pertains to appliance condemnation. Personally, if it is an atmospheric appliance, I limit in flue gas CO levels to 50 PPM before I start sounding any alarms, and in every case, I make certain the HO has CO detectors on every level of their home. Education is key. If it is a sealed combustion appliance, it defer to the manufacturers instructions, which in some cases may be around 100 PPM.





    When testing co in a home,

    1- Who makes the call of high CO levels? What authority do they have? Who will back the tech (company)? AS I STATED, the call is yours because your butt is on the line. If you defer to the industry accepted standard of 400 PPM, it doesn't alleviate you of any liability, but does show that you were following an industry "Standard of Care", which is extremely important to the legal system.

    .

    2- As a technician, what number do you use to sound the alarm of high CO levels. 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, ppm? IF I SEE those numbers in the house, as opposed to in the flue, I notify the occupants that there is definitely an issue that warrants concern. Anything above ambient conditions (be sure to check before you go into the house).



    Do you use a higher number? AGAIN, the alarm levels are determined by you and your company. Anything higher than ambient should be a matter of concern.



    3- If there are smoker in the household/business, how much background CO is allowed before sounding the alarm? NOT SURE I'VE ever thought about it that way. My recommendation would be to quit smoking :-)



    4- What are the requirements for a business with food cooking appliances? THE STANDARDS of exposure that apply to the work place are dictated by OSHA.



    5- What is the definition of a healthy adult? Where do we find this & how to interrupt the definition? SO LONG AS THEY are no an invalid, I would personally consider them as "healthy". If in doubt, err on the conservative side. People that smoke already have a depressed immune system and are subject to a LOT of things that most people wouldn't be affected by.



    6- Firefighters use 35 ppm before wearing the self contained breathing apparatus gear. At the same time 35 ppm is allowed in a work environment for an 8 hour day. Is this a conflict? If it is not safe for a firefighter, why is it safe for a worker? GREAT QUESTION, and again, I would have to say to err on the conservative side. Personally, any CO level above ambient is not good in my opinion. There may also be a difference due to physical activity.



    7- What is the guide line for a 10 hour day? I DO NOT KNOW. Maybe we can get Jim Davis to drop by and comment, or Tim McElwain or whoever.



    8- How many have been in construction environments that have a CO detector on site and alarming, yet no one does anything about the high co levels? I HAVE NEVER ben on a job site that had high CO levels, and if I did, I would take appropriate actions to notify the job super that he had unsafe conditions present and that he needs to address them, or I will.



    If some techs are sounding the alarm, red tagging equipment, testing for CO on every job, correcting high CO burning appliances and tuning them to manufactures specifications, how does the industry bring the majority of non believers on board? EDUCTATION EDUCATION EDUCATION. There are numerous states and country's for that fact, that have laws on the books that hold the technician personally liable for death due to avoidable CO poisoning. Once people realize the personal liability that they hold for knowingly allowing a dangerous condition to exist, they will start doing more to educate the consumers (CO detectors) and testing to avoid possible litigious situations.



    What is going to be the uniform standards that can be referenced to for all situations? AGAIN, ANOTHER excellent question which I cannot answer. Maybe we should send questions like these to a higher authority, like ASHRAE or GAMA or ANSI. The problem is going to be, that many manufacturers don't want to address the CO issues, because it may be misconstrued by another party and cause them problems. Many manufacturers don't even post a CO standard for their equipment, and unless pressed, will not commit to anything other than "Get it to burn as clean as possible".



    Thank you for allowing me to ask the questions and bring forward my concerns

    THANK YOU FOR asking those questions, and to anyoneelese reading this, please feel free to jump in and add and or correct anything that has been said. We all stand to learn from this and that is a good thing.



    ME
    It's not so much a case of "You got what you paid for", as it is a matter of "You DIDN'T get what you DIDN'T pay for, and you're NOT going to get what you thought you were in the way of comfort". Borrowed from Heatboy.
  • Tim McElwain
    Tim McElwain Member Posts: 4,556
    First let me say that this Forum has been much needed

    I am sure Mark remembers the many long postings in the past involving Jim Davis, Mark Hunt, and Mark E. and others.



    How much is too much CO my answer is always anything above "Zero" in the air is too much.



    The standards have been set so that we have guidelines to follow. The technician must make his own judgement calls based on his or her training, education and experience. When in doubt shut everything off and be safe.



    There is all kinds of education material on this subject available. NCI with Jim Davis as instructor has an excellent program. I from time to time run a three day advanced combustion class and testing of designed gas equipment seminar series.



    The protocol on CO is this, if you are the technician on site you must make a judgement call based on your findings. Liability is something we all deal with everyday. I have been doing this for 44 years as a trained foreign odor specialist. I have over 53 years total experience in this area. I must say I have rarely been questioned by anyone on a judgement call I made relative to CO issues. Most first responders typically do not know what I know about CO and especially fossil fuel burning equipment. There job is too give support to my actions, I have evacuated many building due to CO or gas leaks which had reached dangerous levels and no one questioned my actions. I have had clients I worked with who got in trouble for failing to take action in those type situations. I would always prefer to over react than under react.



    I try to provide my customers with low level CO detectors that alarm at 9 PPM instead of the UL2034 detectors which alarm at 70 PPM after 240 minutes.



    I instruct my customers to follow this procedure:

    A reading of 10 PPM to 70 PPM call me first if the level is exceeding 70 PPM call 911 and then call me and EXIT the building.



    I do not care if there are smokers in the building or not I treat all situations the same. I want to insure that any equipment in that building is operating safely. What people do to themselves and their environment I can't control, I can only warn them.



    As for restaurants (I had a restaurant service business for nine years) they are no different as to levels of CO. They are required to have ventilation and make up air in accordance with NFPA 96. They will get shut down real quick by state inspectors around here if they do not meet those standards. I had one hotel kitchen with 80 pieces of gas equipment I serviced and the level of CO in that kitchen was never above 10 PPM on the busiest of days, most of the time it was Zero in the air.



    As for a "healthy adult" I would say one who does not smoke or drink excessively with no upper respiratory problems and not over weight. Those outside of those conditions are not as susceptible to effects of low level CO exposure.



    OSHA 35 PPM as far as I am concerned is just a guideline. If I get a reading of 35 PPM anywhere in the air I am concerned.



    Fork Lifts and Construction heaters are a big problem as far as CO exposure. I advise management of the levels measured and if they will not act to resolve the issue I call in the Fire Department local inspectors who all know me very well and they take action. The mechanical inspectors here in RI are clamping down on propane construction site temporary heater set ups.



    Education is what is needed and Dan is certainly taking steps to accomplish that here.



    I hope this helps a little bit and sorry for the long posting.
  • Tim McElwain
    Tim McElwain Member Posts: 4,556
    edited March 2010
    I just read Marks answers which are

    excellent.



    It is important to understand that when we get to the testing of equipment versus the ambient levels they are two different concerns.



    I had one of my technicians many years ago at the gas company working on a commercial water heater pilot outage. The water heater was in a mechanical room with two large industrial gas burners of about 750,000 BTU's each. He had entered the mechanical room and closed the door to the room upon entering. A maintenance man entered the room some time later and found my tech passed out of the floor in front of the water heater. Now this was a highly trained tech with over 15 years experience. He had turned in his belt carried gas detector the day before as it was not working and had failed to pick up a new one that morning. Fortunately the maintenance man found him soon enough and he was fine. My point is you never know what may be lurking in the environment you are working in. The problem was not with the water heater it was the two boilers which had a partial blockage in the main flue to the roof causing products of combustion to spill back into the room. Without personal protective equipment your senses do not know.



    As for what about 10 hours or anything in excess of eight hours. Eight hours is a standard used for many what are called time weighted averages for statistical analysis. The same levels are required for 8 or anything in excess of eight hours 9 PPM for EPA and 35 PPM for OSHA.



    As an expert witness for court cases I can tell you that courts rely heavily on information brought into cases by those experts. They will usually ask me if a particular action is "a long standing practice in the industry" and I usually have to substantiate the practice with written records or policies. It is sometimes very difficult to defend a technician who does not follow sound practices in dealing with these situations. Documentation and sound equipment inoperative procedures are required. Just shutting off a switch or gas valve to equipment will not typically suffice. Several judges I have worked with follow this as a criteria, the fuel to the equipment must be disconnected and capped off so that physical action with wrenches or tools is required to reconnect the fuel source.



    I also recommend follow up of disconnection with a registered letter to the building owner. We have real problems here in RI with absentee landlords. The registered letter protects you in court.



    It is also very important that technicians get trained on combustion issues and proper set up and adjustment of equipment. I find this is lacking in most training programs for licensing. Many of the installers and contractors I run into are very weak in these areas.



    I also find that many who should be carrying test equipment for detecting CO and also explosive limits of Propane and natural gas are not doing so. It is amazing to me more people do not die.



    One final story to stress the importance of how far we should go. An oil tech tested oil furnace and oil water heater for possible combustion issues due to complaints from the elderly woman and her daughter having headaches. He found every thing with in safe levels and advised them everything was okay and gave them a print out of his findings. The next day they were rushed to the hospital with CO poisoning, the cause 2500 PPM from the old gas stove oven which was being used to bake Christmas cookies. My question is the technician liable?
  • MacPHJr
    MacPHJr Member Posts: 66
    CO Levels

    Our company has been getting calls for high levels of stack CO for energy audit companies in our area. In each case I have consulted with the manufacturer to determine what they expect from their equipment. One furnace rep told me that the units are tested at the factory and as long as the CO levels are below 400 ppm they send it out the door. The rep for a popular boiler in our area, who was very knowledgable on the subject, said the same thing. He explained that different levels of CO can be present in the same stack. It will really depend where your measurements are taken from.



    Is there a best case location in the stack to take readings.



    He also explained that atmospheric boilers were designed to be used in wide open basements with max air infiltration from old basement windows and loose granite foundations.



    Also, the energy audit company uses the Building Science guidelines, which differ greatly from manufacturer's allowable level of CO for gas fired equipment.



    Whose guidelines do you go by?



    Mark, we do not advertise for CO safety or testing. We do have the proper equipment and every new install is tested.



    I have been told to limit my discussion on CO when meeting with customers for potenional new installs, as it comes off as a "scare tactic" sale pitch. I disagree, but IU can see how some customers might see it that way.
  • Mark Eatherton
    Mark Eatherton Member Posts: 5,839
    Thanks Mikey...

    Stick around and learn something and maybe save life.



    I have the same CO analyzer. Great tool if properly used and understood. Unfortunately, most contractors pay most attention to one point of data, that being "% Efficiency". And that is really the one they should ignore. There's no less than 100 ways to get to the same point on the efficiency chart. CO, oxygen and excess air are the key guides to combustion efficiency.



    Also, you could be showing a boiler efficiency of 99%, but if it is improperly installed and controlled, it does not mean squat.



    Just curious, where your current position has no fuel burning equipment?



    Prevention of the product of CO is a never ending task, requiring due dilligence in the maintenance area. Education is also a on gong task that needs to be done on a one to one basis as well as a nationally coordinated effort. CO poisonings represent the largest inadvertent poisoning condition in THE WORLD,and for the most part, it is avoidable.



    Thanks for asking. SOME BODY will learn from it.



    ME
    It's not so much a case of "You got what you paid for", as it is a matter of "You DIDN'T get what you DIDN'T pay for, and you're NOT going to get what you thought you were in the way of comfort". Borrowed from Heatboy.
  • Tim McElwain
    Tim McElwain Member Posts: 4,556
    edited March 2010
    It looks like the audit

    companies are shooting for what we all use as a target maximum CO air free flue sample of under 100 PPM. The ANSI standard for boilers, furnaces and water heaters is 400 PPM which is really a guideline. By applying proper combustion techniques and properly setting up designed equipment both gas and oil we can stay well under 100 PPM. This requires the technician to have been trained in procedures for accomplishing this. The exception for the 100 may be manufacturers specs on some MOD-CON equipment, in that case follow the specs given. I would show those specs by the way to any auditor who questions readings over 100 when spec'd by the manufacturer.



    The ANSI Standard for gas ovens is 800 PPM which is ridiculous to say the least to think that is spewing into yours and mine kitchen. I want to see no more than 25 PPM coming from the oven vent. So the standards are there and that is all the manufacturers shoot for as that is their criteria. When you look at Building Science Guidelines they are built around safety so if that is what you are working with those will have to be met as a contractor.



    As for location when taking readings:  If you have a draft hood which is not attached to the equipment and there is some rise above the appliance then take the reading as close to the breach as you can.



    If the draft hood is built into the equipment then you must get up inside the equipment flue passages. With warm air furnaces you should take a reading on each section and average them out.



    On water heaters I drill down through the draft hood at an angle so I can get down inside the flue passage.



    On draft induced equipment you want to get about 18 to 24 inches away from the exit point of the inducer. Pretty much the same on power vented.



    On direct vent concentric vents you have to get to the inside of the pipe if no provision is made by the manufacturer to do that then I have a method I will only show in my classes. 



    When testing ovens get down about 6 inches into the flue passage on the back of the range on gas ovens.



    We actually do all of this in my classes at my training center.



    I do not agree that discussing safety with a customer will kill the sale in fact it will help to sell even more products such as CO Detectors. I have been dealing with customers for a long time and the truth is the greatest sales tool we have. I love my customers and want to treat them the same way I would treat my own family. It is my job to save lives and make people comfortable at the best price I can give them.



    Have your company ownership get in touch with me I will convince them that giving all the information will guarantee them many more sales than they will ever lose.



    I have some outfits actually going out and doing CO testing when things are slow just to keep everyone working and not have layoffs. They charge for the call and are making money doing it. At the same time they are saving lives.



    Every new install should be combustion tested and at least once a year tested again. All equipment in the building should be tested at that time also.



    As for atmospheric equipment being designed to be used in wide open basements with maximum air infiltration from unknown sources that has never been true and whoever said that needs to read the National Fuel Gas Code. The code requires so much air for combustion for every cubic foot of gas burned (10 cubic feet) and an additional 4 cubic feet of excess air and then 15 more cubic feet of dilution air. If that can not be guaranteed then openings have to be provided. We now have the KAIR method in recent code changes due to tightly constructed homes with less than 1 air change per hour. So this air thing has been more than just infiltration air for a long time.
  • Tim McElwain
    Tim McElwain Member Posts: 4,556
    My phone number

    if someone wants to talk to me about this is 401-437-0557.
  • MikeyB
    MikeyB Member Posts: 696
    edited March 2010
    Survey

    Your right ME it is a great tool, I'm glad I made the move to purchase one. Now all I have to do is learn how to use it the right way, I have been purchasing Tim M. manuals on Combustion Testing and learning alot about the subject. My next step is to make it to his seminars in the near future. I am currently a Licensed Operating Engineer in NYC, the building I operate now has electric drive chillers for cooling, and we use Con Ed steam for our heat, (no boilers in this plant) so there is not much combustion testing going on with the equip in my plant, unless I want to take samples of the exhaust gas from our emergency generator while its running. I purchased the analyzer pretty much for my own personal use (testing it out on my own boiler/water heater, stove, etc.) If you ever get the chance to do one of your seminars in NYC be sure to let us know. Thanks again Mark for your knowledge & time.
  • Wayne_16
    Wayne_16 Member Posts: 130
    Internal Combustion engines

    Mikey, I presume the generator is a interal combustion engine driven generator.  The CO levels in the exhaust will excede the rating of your test instrument and  damage the CO sensor.



    Minnesota Wayne
  • MikeyB
    MikeyB Member Posts: 696
    engine

    Your correct Wayne, the last thing I want to do is damage the sensor or the instrument, thanks
This discussion has been closed.