December 20, 2021

Why Every Abode Needs a Carbon Monoxide Alarm

This is a hard post to write but one that shows the importance of inspections and of carbon monoxide alarms. A few decades ago carbon monoxide alarms were not readily available for housing units. They are now.

Carbon monoxide or “CO” does not smell and has no colour. It comes from fossil fuel, gas ranges, fireplaces, and furnaces. It is slightly lighter than air and permeates a room. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are headaches and flu like symptoms. Breathing in a lot of it can kill you.

And that is exactly what happened last month to a well regarded couple in Point Roberts Washington, just south of Tsawwassen in British Columbia. They had just built their dream home and died in it.

Gail and Murray had a newly constructed house and had installed a condensing boiler which can use natural gas or propane. As there is no natural gas availability in Point Roberts, a condensing boiler had to be converted for propane. That conversion appears to have not been correctly installed, with a boiler flue pipe failing, and the carbon monoxide gas filtrating through the house.

There was also no fail-safe system in having a carbon monoxide alarm in the house. In new construction for the last decade Washington State requires that new houses have carbon monoxide alarms, and four should have been installed under the state ordinance. These are normally installed near bedrooms, on each floor of the unit, and one in any garage. While new constructed houses require hard wired carbon monoxide alarms, you can purchase  independent units from London Drugs for about thirty dollars.

In Vancouver since 2017 every dwelling unit in the city by Fire By-law is required to have carbon monoxide alarms if there is an attached garage, shares a common access to a parking garage, or has “fuel-fired” appliances, hot water tanks, fireplaces or furnaces.

In September of this year 20 people in a building at Nelson and Cardero Streets were hospitalized for carbon monoxide poisoning, caused by the heating boiler having a broken exhaust pipe.

CBC has produced a short video with the Vancouver Fire Department on the use of carbon monoxide detectors which you can have a quick look at here.





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    1. Post

      Thank you for your comment. As my article stated, it is not so much electric appliances but the shared in common method of heating the units. if your unit is heated by radiant heating or by gas or wood the culprit is often the way heat is generated by the whole building. Many units in Vancouver are heated by common gas fire or radiant heating boilers for all the units. They do not have individual electrical heaters in each unit. Much of the hot water heat is still generated from common boilers on natural gas. There are many homes and units heated this way. That is what happened to the apartment building in September in Vancouver where a shared heated system resulted in twenty carbon monoxide poisonings, several of them very serious.

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