FAIRFAX, Va. — On Jan. 12, 2016, Paul McElwee, a CroppMetcalfe HVAC technician, visited a home in Maryland. The family scheduled an appointment after they noticed their furnace not producing any heat. Shortly after entering the home, McElwee identified the problem as a cracked heat exchanger. The cracked heat exchanger was leaking dangerous levels of carbon monoxide (CO) into the home, at 2,000 parts per million in the flue. Anything over 100 parts per million in the flue (and 8 parts per million anywhere else in the house) is considered dangerous and is cause to shut down the system and evacuate the house. There were no CO detectors found in the house to help detect such a dangerous situation.

A young child living in the home had been sick for weeks, with doctors unable to identify the source of his nausea and headaches. Once McElwee found the CO problem, he recommended the family take the boy to a hospital to be tested for CO poisoning.

The tests confirmed CO poisoning as the reason for the boy and other family members falling ill. Fortunately, doctors were able to treat the boy and he has been recovering ever since. CroppMetcalfe installed a new, safe furnace the very next day, along with carbon monoxide detectors. The family was thankful there were no long-lasting repercussions of carbon monoxide poisoning, but not every family is so lucky.

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that has been given the name “the silent killer.” The winter season regularly brings stories about families becoming sick and even dying from carbon monoxide poisoning.

The main causes of these tend to be:

• Gas burning appliances that are broken and emitting CO into the home.

• Running combustion engine appliances inside the home or another enclosed area like a garage without proper ventilation.

• Air intake pipes and vents becoming clogged from heavy snowfall.

Symptoms of potential carbon monoxide poisoning are:

• Fatigue and drowsiness

• Shortness of breath

• Headache

• Nausea and dizziness

• Pain in the chest

If any family member is experiencing these symptoms, they need to immediately:

• Open windows and doors to bring in fresh air.

• Turn off the appliances.

• Leave the home and call 911 and seek medical attention.

CroppMetcalfe recommends any home that has gas appliances have a carbon monoxide detector on every floor.

For more information, visit www.croppmetcalfe.com.

Publication date: 2/15/2016

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