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jage 11-06-2009 12:59 PM

How Do I make Carbon Monoxide?
During our home inspection the inspector noted CO at the furnace. I bought a Kiddie CO detector with a digital peak level indicator, and locked it in the room with the gas water heater and gas furnace.

I've checked it 3 times and it has never read anything but zero. I've tested and reset it, but it still reads zero at all times.

So I'd like to create some CO (in a well ventilated area!) and direct it at the meter to ensure it is working and the readings really are zero in the furnace room.

What is an easy way to make some CO to test a meter without a pre-1974 automobile?

Scuba_Dave 11-06-2009 02:22 PM

Why do you think cars no longer create CO ?? :huh:

Clutchcargo 11-06-2009 02:32 PM

63 Attachment(s)
Maybe a lawn mower. I've never heard of anyone wanting to make CO. I thought all dino fuels create CO ahead of any catalytic converter or something like that.
Did your inspector note that the heat exchanger is cracked and is emitting CO into the living space?

Yoyizit 11-06-2009 02:41 PM

A yellow candle flame generates CO because the flame is yellow [incomplete combustion] but ask the detector manuf. how you can do this test/calibration without ruining the detector.
At the factory they probably generate CO using chemicals.

LanterDan 11-06-2009 02:56 PM

Uh, call AirGas or equivalant bottled gas supplier. Here they even sell mixtures specifically for calibration of CO detectors:

Seriously though, if I had doubts about the home inspectors finding then I would hire someone else for a second opinion. A HVAC contractor for example who would even be able to fix the problem for you if he concurred with your inspector.

Maintenance 6 11-06-2009 03:38 PM

Burning any carbon based material in air will produce carbon/oxygen compounds as a combustion by-product. Gasoline, coal, your wifes dinner, the neighbors cat will all produce CO and CO2. Incomplete combustion will just add other carbon compounds to the mix. Combustion by products include recombined molecules made up of the materials and oxidizers that were present during the combustion cycle. I would try a different CO monitor if you aren't certain, but it could be that the parts per million that are being detected are so far below the alarm threshold, that it's ignoring them as incidental backround and showing zero. How well was the inspector's CO monitor calibrated?

gma2rjc 11-06-2009 04:59 PM

Set the carbon monoxide detector out in your shed. Turn on a gas engine (lawn mower, leaf blower). Leave it on. Walk out and close the door. If the detector is working, would it set off the alarm? Air the shed out before you go back in.

My brother-in-law had a friend who brought a gas powered engine in the house to use for just a couple minutes. I'm not sure what the tool was, but the fumes killed him.

Yoyizit 11-06-2009 05:10 PM


Originally Posted by gma2rjc (Post 349917)
the fumes killed him.

"Carbon monoxide poisoning is the most common type of fatal poisoning in many countries.[3] It is also commonly used as a method to commit suicide, usually by deliberately inhaling the exhaust fumes of a running car engine. Carbon monoxide poisoning has also been implicated as the cause of apparent haunted houses. Symptoms such as delirium and hallucinations have led people suffering poisoning to think they have seen ghosts or to believe their house is haunted."

Scuba_Dave 11-06-2009 05:17 PM

jage 11-06-2009 06:11 PM


Originally Posted by Scuba_Dave (Post 349841)
Why do you think cars no longer create CO ?? :huh:

They do, there is just not as much coming out the tailpipe. Still enough to kill you, and I honestly hadn't considered it to be enough to test although it seems it should be.

Ironically I only have two diesel vehicles and an electric mower and weed eater. I just bought a tractor, but it's diesel too. The only gas engine, big or small is in my Jeep and it's not running at the moment.

Now whether diesels emit enough CO for a test I don't know. Maybe I'll "borrow" the CO alarms installed in the house we're renting and give 'er a go.

Scuba_Dave 11-06-2009 06:15 PM

Enough to kill you, enough to measure
Pipe the exhaust into a cardboard box

zircon 11-07-2009 09:55 AM

While you are at it,
why not whip up a small batch of anthrax? :no: You could be in line for a Darwin Award.

Yoyizit 11-07-2009 10:03 AM

If a brand new CO detector is 95% likely to work correctly, two will give you 99.8% reliability. Five detectors will then give you better than six nines

To confirm the 95% figure, try Googling recalls on CO detectors.

BTW, despite this six nines business, a mech. eng. once told me that the engineers who design helicopters do not fly in them because they know very well how dangerous they are.

joetab24 11-07-2009 10:36 AM

i just bought a detector also and was wondering the same thing. we have a ventless gas fireplace that hasn't been used since we purchased the home 2.5 years ago. i finally turned it on. we don't use it often. i think I read the ventless gas fireplaces are banned in CA, MASS and Canada.

nap 11-07-2009 10:49 AM


Originally Posted by Yoyizit (Post 350186)

BTW, despite this six nines business, a mech. eng. once told me that the engineers who design helicopters do not fly in them because they know very well how dangerous they are.

and flying in a convertible jet is better:
this happened in-flight and the plane safely landed. There was one death associated with the incident due to their "removal" from the plane while at altitude.

I never did like convertibles.

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