CO And Vents

It was good to see John R. Hall’s editorial [“I’m Mad As Hell Over CO Poisoning Deaths,” March 25] about carbon monoxide poisoning in the March 25 issue ofThe News.

I am the general manager of a fuel oil company with 35 employees. I find myself constantly preaching the need to properly ensure there is good draft in a chimney, no corroded flue pipe, etc. It’s interesting to see how little concern there is for regulating vent installations.

Training or certification is not required here, and I’ve sat in classes at Brooklyn Union Gas where they tell you that all you have to do is wave a match under the draft diverter during final inspection to prove enough draft to pass the system installation. Better hope there is no downdraft later on down the road!

The apathy is even worse when it comes to condensing furnaces. PVC flues are viewed as the end-all to problem installations (mainly retrofits) where chimneys would make a job too expensive or there isn’t a place to put one. Short cuts leading to shoddy installs are rampant. Oil installations are also at risk, with the advent of direct venting.

If the industry wants to save lives, they have to lobby to have certification and licensing before a plumber can install a flue or vent. Understanding the ramifications of a bad vent installation is of paramount importance, and it behooves the manufacturers and the industry in general to make sure safe installation practices are always followed.

Good luck with your campaign against CO poisoning.

Robert Ghosio Jr., General Manager, Burt’s Reliable, Inc., Southold, NY

Working CO Detectors

As a leader in indoor air quality, Research Products strongly supports John R. Hall’s interest in spreading awareness of CO poisoning, as expressed in his excellent March 25 editorial, “I’m Mad As Hell Over CO Poisoning Deaths.”

However, we would go one step further to argue for the importance not only of CO detectors in the home, but working CO detectors in the home, with emphasis on the word “working.”

All too often, we hear of home-owners who have a CO detector that has gone unchecked and has an alarm that no longer works. Many people don’t know that a typical carbon monoxide detector lasts just two years — five at best — and aren’t aware that these units need to be regularly tested and replaced.

Unlike a smoke alarm, a CO alarm can sit for years without making a sound. What’s more, the test features on many units merely test the alarm’s horn rather than the actual sensor. That means there are a lot of already-installed CO detectors out there that are virtually worthless.

In our own effort to get the word out on this issue, Research Products is working to arm each of our installing contractors with two safe and easy-to-use tools — the Aprilaire® Carbon Monoxide Alarm and Carbon Monoxide Test Kit. Our hope is that contractors will use these tools on each service call they make, bringing CO awareness and information to homeowners who don’t currently have an alarm, and providing peace of mind by testing — and perhaps replacing — alarms that are already installed.

An additional benefit to this CO awareness campaign is the terrific public relations opportunity it provides: By taking a few minutes to provide this service, contractors also will actively be strengthening the reputation of our industry and providing homeowners with a positive, educational experience.

Sean McCarthy, Research Products Corp., Madison, WI

Disappearing Oil

There have been a number of articles and questions about oil logging and disappearing oil in recent months. John Tomczyk’s article (”Oil-Logged Evaporators,” Feb. 11) was a very good one, but there is one more cause for disappearing oil that no one has mentioned.

If a unit has a receiver that is severely overcharged, the oil will float on top of the refrigerant and, thus, not return to the compressor. This can create another problem if the unit ever needs to be pumped down — there may not be enough room for the whole charge.

I have found this condition several times and have talked to a couple of technicians who did the overcharging. The reason they gave for adding that extra charge was “I thought the unit had a leak, so I wanted to save a trip back too soon.”

Art Dobson, Educational Coordinator, Encompass Mechanical Services, Seattle, WA

Publication date: 04/22/2002