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CO Detector

nilo Member Posts: 1
Can the home owner do his own CO testing on his gas furnace?  Is there an affordable tool/analyzer with which to do this?  The high efficiency furnaces have no adjustments for combustion other than the gas pressure,,, is that correct?


  • Tim McElwain
    Tim McElwain Member Posts: 4,580
    The worst scenario I can ever

    imagine is someone with a combustion analyzer testing there own equipment and not knowing what to do with what the analyzer reads.

    Having said that I would suggest purchasing a good CO detector and install it in you house for you and your families safety.

    To answer your question concerning high efficiency furnaces it depends on the furnace as to adjustments available. Those adjustments should not however be made by untrained professionals.
  • Jean-David Beyer
    Jean-David Beyer Member Posts: 2,666
    CO testing

    "Can the home owner do his own CO testing on his gas furnace?"

    I am not a professional, but I have looked into this. I suppose a homeowner could do this, but he will need the proper equipment, and fully understand the installation and maintenance manual of his boiler. He better also understand the test equipment, and how to maintain and calibrate it as well. One of the problems with the analyzers I looked at is that their sensors last only two to three years. This is probably not a problem for a professional who uses the analyzer almost every day (at least, during the local heating season), but for a home owner who uses it only once or twice a year, that could be a serious expense.

    "Is there

    an affordable tool/analyzer with which to do this?"

    It depends on what you mean by affordable. Since we do not discuss prices here, I cannot tell you what a suitable digital combustion analyzer would cost, but it is about 10 to 20 times the cost of a small Taco circulator. I looked at Bacharac and Testo analyzers.

    "The high efficiency

    furnaces have no adjustments for combustion other than the gas

    pressure,,, is that correct?"

    I do not know about most high efficiency furnaces, but my W-M Ultra 3 has what I would call a mixture adjustment screw. They insist no one touch that screw unless they have a digital combustion analyzer and know how to use it. They mix the air and gas together in a venturi and blow it into the burner itself. I think of that setup as a carburettor of a car, but using natural gas instead of gasoline. The whole thing is balanced. If no air were being blown in, no gas would be delivered. The more air, the more gas. They vary the air flow to modulate the boiler, and the gas adjusts by aerodynamics to preserve the correct mixture.
  • Jean-David Beyer
    Jean-David Beyer Member Posts: 2,666
    Tim is, of course, right.

    While I looked at getting my own analyzer, because I had trouble finding professionals around here willing to use theirs, in the final analysis, I decided against getting my own. If over the next year I feel forced to get an analyzer, I would try to find a course at a local technical school that taught the proper care and maintenance of gas fired burners. I am sure I can find out all I need to know from books, but book-knowledge goes only so far, and beyond that, you need practical hands-on training. I know this is true in other fields, and I have no reason to believe it is not true here.

    I have two CO detectors in my house, but that is not the same as having a gas burner properly adjusted by someone who knows how.

    If you want to do your own work to save money, I do not suppose you can save any when you add to the cost of an analyzer, the cost of maintaining it, and the cost of a suitable course of instruction to learn how to use it.
  • Tim McElwain
    Tim McElwain Member Posts: 4,580
    JDB and others

    I have manuals that are very easy reading on gas combustion and combustion related topics. As for homeowners reading them and then doing there own adjustments I do not think so, however if you have read up on a subject you will at least know if the contractor you hire knows what he is doing relative to combustion adjustments and testing on your equipment.

    I have rarely found a vocational school program that knows what needs to be known as far as combustion testing and Carbon Monoxide related concerns.

    If you are interested contact me at [email protected] and I will send you a catalog.
  • Jim Davis_3
    Jim Davis_3 Member Posts: 578
    combustion testing

    Where do you live??
  • Jean-David Beyer
    Jean-David Beyer Member Posts: 2,666
    if you have read up

    I have read up;  enough to know that most of the contractors I have run into do not know what they are doing. And this is by no means restricted to heating contractors. And this is not because I always pick the lowest bidder. In fact, I seldom pick such a person or company. I have found this to be a continuing dissapointment over the years. I do not like maintaining or repairing stuff. The reason I have come to do this kind of thing is because in many cases it is easier to learn how to do something and to do it, than to find a nearby professional to do it.

    "I have rarely found a vocational school program..." I was afraid that would be the case. And I suppose chosing such a program would be just as much of a problem as choosing a capable contractor. I just checked my local vocational school on line. They offer a course on oil burners, but not gas. So I do not even need to find out if they are any good or not.

    I have found that for simple plumbing work, I can usually do that easier than finding a good plumber. When I built my darkroom, none of the plumbers I contacted seemed to understand what I needed. They did not seem to understand the need for vacuum breakers to keep solutions from getting back into the water supply. One said a swing check valve would do it. Not hardly. So I put it in myself. Copper tubing for the water coming in; pvc for the waste going out. 100 soldered connections (1/2 inch) with no leaks. I was impressed myself. 30 years later, two of the vacuum breakers came to the end of their life. I called a plumber to replace two gate valves with ball valves, and to replace the vacuum breakers. He said you could not get vacuum breakers anymore, and just use a check valve (he did not mean an anti-backflow valve). So I went to the plumbing supply place, and got two of them. Supposedly he was a professional.

    I did find good plumber, but he retired. I have often been disappointed by electrical contractors. Now I have no license for that kind of work, but I designed electronic equipment for many years, and electronics has a lot in common with electric wiring. Enough so I can do simple things. But I would not like to put in a power panel, or meter pan, because the theory is easy, but the practice involves many things that mainly experience will teach. Besides, I am not sure I could get my work past an electrical inspector. Like where in a textbook would I find out to put a little fiber collar inside the end of a piece of BX so the metal would not nick the plastic insulation?

    And gas must be worse. If I screw up plumbing, I know it pretty fast from the water where it should not be. If I mess up electrical work, I suppose sparks and popped circuit breakers would notify me. (I do not make that kind of mistake.) But if I screwed up some gas equipment, I might not notice a gas leak (I cannot smell it unless it is pretty strong). If I diddled the combustion incorrectly,  I would not notice it until the CO detectors found out. And if the combustion were just a little off, but not enough to notice by examining the flame, I would never know.
  • icesailor
    icesailor Member Posts: 7,265
    CO Detector/Plumbers:

    It's not that there are no good plumbers out there, they just never get called or they are busy out fixing other peoples mistakes.

    "There's never enough time to do it right but always time to do it over."

    "If I do it right the first time, I never need to do it over."

    "That may work for you. I've never seen it work for me or anyone else but it might work for you."

    (You're an a$$hat) I know what I am doing.

    Someone just called me about standing water in their yard. An engineer told him he didn't have a problem and if he graded around his house, the water would be led away. "Oh really" I said. "Have you ever seen a lake with the water higher at one end than the other?" No. You;ve got groundwater. Like the lake, it is level.

    I'm an a$$hat. Go figure.

    You didn't call me about your darkroom. Did he put check valves the mix valve to keep the water at that constant temperature ( I forget what it is now) for your washing?
  • Jean-David Beyer
    Jean-David Beyer Member Posts: 2,666
    I did it myself.

    Gave up on those plumbers. I have not found the good one.

    "You didn't call me about your darkroom. Did he put check valves the mix

    valve to keep the water at that constant temperature ( I forget what it

    is now) for your washing?"

    I have a Lawler temperature and pressure (2-stage) regulating valve that includes check valves on the input, and a vacuum breaker at the top, and a very large thermometer. It worked for about 20 years, whereupon it stopped regulating well. I got their rebuild kit, took the whole thing apart and rebuilt it. Works just like new, holding +|- 1/2 Degree F again. I wish I had one for my shower. I put that in myself new because plumbers did not know what I was talking about. The nearest they knew about in those days was a single-stage pressure-balancing valve for showers.

    The last plumber I had in here could replace failed gate valves with ball valves. He also could put in a new wash basin and toilet. He could not change the washers in my shower, saying the old valves were too old. But he would not replace the valves either. Some things seem to be too complex for plumbers around here. If this house were not about 60 years old, I would change them myself. But I know that working on such old plumbing is much more difficult than installing new.
  • rlaggren
    rlaggren Member Posts: 160
    Good Help Is Hard to Find

    Been that way for a while... Forever. Whether you're technically able to do things like JDB or a social engineer who can locate and cultivate other people to do the job, it takes work to arrange things the way you want. If you care then you do that work.

    II can assure you absolutely that if I value my time at $10hr, it is almost never less expensive to do the job myself - unless I pick the wrong person and have to fix the damage. Not counting plumbing for which I've got the truck, tools, training and years of experience; even that may be a wash if I'm not on my home turf knowing exactly where to get material and how to deal with each inspector. And I have been maintaining every part and system for old houses for 50 years which is not something most people have going for them.

    IOW. Don't bet much on saving money by DYI. I can almost promise it'll end up costing at least twice as much to do it yourself NOT COUNTING YOUR LABOR. Sometimes that's just fine, satisfaction and all - but it's sure not cheaper.

    > gas training...

    At one time the utility, PG&E where I come from, offered superb training classes to most any tradesman who cared to sign up. I believe they still have a program like that; though I haven't been part of it  for many years; I leafed through their public training catalog recently and. saw many energy related courses. Perhaps other utilities may offer similar opportunities.

    disclaimer - I'm a plumber, not a heating pro.
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