I was reading an article yesterday in the Dayton Daily News about a couple who died from carbon monoxide poisoning from a generator they had running in their garage. I was struck by the fact that the couple had felt it was OK to place their generator in the garage and leave it closed to ventilation. Years ago, in a company I worked for, we had gentlemen who did punch out list work and had done the same thing, only in a basement with a gas powered pressure washer. The carbon monoxide fumes had built up to a point where he had passed out on the floor. He was fortunate another co-worker had found him, shut off the engine and opened every window, then called 911.
Gas powered anything produces carbon monoxide. It’s odorless and is made abundantly on the planet by a lot of different things. Cows, people, burning of fossil fuel, including natural gas or wherever a carbon based life form is burned. Adequate ventilation is always required when using something that produces carbon monoxide. What is proper ventilation? Well it’s what they say to use in the instruction booklets of gas powered equipment, right? Of course right. So how much ventilation is actually required?
Most large appliances such as gas direct vent fireplaces, furnaces and hot water heaters come with detailed specs on how to vent them. Usually a licensed professional is installing them so you are usually assured they’re done correctly. But a generator or gas powered heater, used occasionally, usually doesn’t have a dedicated venting source, for example a flue, so figure that there is no actual calculation involved. More of understanding that there are no safe levels of CO (carbon monoxide). If your not comfortable with the idea of having something like this around, don’t. There are plenty of manufacturers that make permanent, outdoor, natural gas powered generators that a licensed installer can install with a switching system that will kick it on automatically if the power goes down. They can be sized to meet the needs of your home from completely running everything seamlessly, to just the essentials.
But if you lose power, and heat, for more then a few hours and the temperature drops in your home, get out to a warm location. The mall, your favorite coffee place, friends who have power, wherever. If the power is going to be out for more then 30 hours and the fear of pipes freezing are a concern. Shut the water off at the main, open up the hot and cold water at a faucet on the lowest level and let it drain the plumbing system down. This will relieve the pressure on your pipes and allow the expansion of water in the pipes as the begin to freeze, thus averting a potential water disaster.
One of the things I find on my day to day conversations with customers is what I think is normal, commonsense and routine is not for them. I recommend carbon monoxide detectors on all floors of a home that has gas appliances, gas furnace, gas water heater or gas fireplace inserts. They are as easy to install as plugging them into a wall outlet. Do you have gas appliances? Have you installed carbon monoxide detectors on every level of your home? Let me know what you think.