Jim Wheeler 2013-02-12 01:15:30
Damage control In Florida, a local news station exposed that many local schools don’t have carbon monoxide detectors.Oh heavens! But then, where would the deadly gas come from? The parking lot? Because of the year-round warm weather, Floridians don’t use many fossil fuels for heating. Most of the fossil-fuel furnaces in Florida do have either parts of large central systems located in remote buildings or are mounted on roofs where any products of combustion are directly vented outside. The danger of carbon monoxide poisoning is pretty remote. Understand that fossil fuels or other forms of combustion are the only likely sources for CO. The higher the percentage of carbon it contains the higher the likelihood of producing CO, CO², aldehydes and soot. Natural gas (methane), which has just one atom of carbon per molecule, is on the lighter end (people use the open flames to cook their food), while propane, butane and fuel oil are on the other side of the spectrum when it comes to creating carbon byproducts. Of course, since the other four atoms on a methane molecule are hydrogen and burning it creates water, combustion of the lighter fuels creates more moisture which must be dealt with. It’s not that water by itself creates much of a corrosion problem since things such as heat exchangers and vent pipes are usually corrosion resistant. However, all indoor air is laced with chemicals from hair sprays, perfumes, adhesives, cleaning solvents, etc., which when burned creates stronger acids that mix with the moisture and cause damage. When vented through masonry or brick chimneys, the moisture and acids attack the mortar, which could eventually lead to a collapse. This is why most modern high-efficiency furnace manufacturers recommend oldfashioned chimneys be lined with metal or abandoned. The United States and other governments created a problem when they mandated the manufacture and sale of high-efficiency furnaces. In many cases the water heater vented into the same stack as the furnace and it often would not vent at all in cold weather after the furnace had been vented elsewhere. Of course, this raises the possibility of the water heater leaving CO, CO², aldehydes and unwanted moisture inside the inhabited space. New and separate venting for water heaters is highly recommended when changing out an old, standard efficiency furnace whenever the new furnace is provided its own separate venting. However, if the added moisture isn’t a problem during the winter, it’s probably a good idea as a precaution to locate a CO detector somewhere close to the water heater. The presence of soot anywhere around or inside a water heater or furnace is always a problem, since soot is just unburned carbon. Where there is unburned carbon, there are all the rest of the undesirable and dangerous byproducts of incomplete combustion. I realize heavier fuels commonly show signs of soot inside furnaces. However, adjusting the combustion air to obtain as blue a flame as possible is critical to the operation of the device and to minimizing the creation of carbon monoxide. Jim Wheeler is an award-winning journalist who has worked in various positions in the HVACR industry since the early 1970s. His articles have been appearing every month since October of 1986. Contact him at email@example.com.
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