Carbon Monoxide Detectors, Detection, Confusion
We purchased smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on the day we closed on our house, but it took us three weeks before we activated and installed them. So it came as quite a shock a few days later when the carbon monoxide detector started tweeting. It made a cute little double tweet sound that we soon learned to fear and loath. Seriously, that sweet little twitter could haunt my dreams.
After determining that double beep meant carbon monoxide and running a makeshift reliability test (taking the detector outside made it stop beeping and bringing it back in made it go off again), we called the non-emergency police number and evacuated the house along with the dinner I was in the middle of prepping.
The fire department detected low levels of carbon monoxide throughout the house that dissipated down to an acceptable level while they were there. They turned on every gas appliance in the house and said the carbon monoxide was not a malfunction of any appliances (phew) so they suspected it was from a floor drain in our basement with a dry trap. They poured water down the drain and told us to have a plumber come the next day for a full assessment. We thanked them profusely and got a plumber to come the very next day. He agreed that it was most likely a dry trap probably from the house being unoccupied while it was being readied for going on the market. He said that as long as the trap isn’t broken we should just pour water down it a few times a month. We started dutifully pouring water down the drain every time we did our laundry and thought the problem was solved until our carbon monoxide detector went off again….
We called the plumber right back and he was able to send someone the next day. They snaked the ventilation pipe because back pressure from a clogged or improperly vented pipe can cause a suction effect to the water in the trap.
We were told that it was possible the trap was broken but we wouldn’t know unless the alarm went off again….and it did.
So we called back our plumber and he laid out our options. We could:
1) Replace the trap in the floor drain, which would require drilling in the cement floor and re-pouring cement = very pricey
2) Fill the drain with cement, which is less expensive but a very permanent solution in which we are left with no floor drain in case of flooding or any of our appliances leaking- washing machine, furnace, hot water heater.
3) Buy a $10 expandable plug similar to this one
Of course we liked option three best… until the carbon monoxide detector went off again. By this time my mom was so concerned she had gifted us a fancy carbon monoxide detector that displayed the amount of carbon monoxide in the house in parts per million. When we weren’t able to bring down our carbon monoxide levels by opening our windows we called non-emergency once again. We begged the dispatcher not to have the firemen use their sirens this time. They checked all our gas appliances once again and said they were fine so they recommended we call our plumber back.
By this time we were beyond distressed. Not even the experts could figure out the source of the carbon monoxide in our house. We tried to piece together a pattern. We couldn’t pin down anything conclusively, but the alarm sometimes went off after we ran a load of laundry and sometimes when a few people took showers consecutively. We decided to run a little test. We do NOT recommend this strategy and we know that carbon monoxide detectors are not supposed to be located in a furnace room and certainly not directly next to your gas appliances. However, we were desperate so we got creative in an effort to prove our suspicion. We put the carbon monoxide detector next to the hot water heater. It continued reading zero. We turned the basement shower on full blast using hot water and kept our eyes on the carbon monoxide levels. Within a minute it read 60! This was all the evidence we needed. We turned off the water, opened the windows, aired out the house until the meter levels were back to zero, and scheduled to have a new hot water heater installed immediately. Despite our unconventional/incorrect means to an end we have not had a single problem or heard a peep from even one of our THREE carbon monoxide detectors since we installed the new hot water heater. I know they say you can’t buy piece of mind, but this particular purchase felt pretty darn close!