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TechEditor

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Reply with quote  #1 
The mantra has always been to purchase a CO detector if you are going to use a kerosene powered non-vented heater in a residential dwelling, because it will save your life. I was curious if this was actually true or just another old wives tale. I will jump right to my conclusions.
    1. If you have a non-vented gas heater / cook top, then absolutely get a CO monitor.
    2. If you have a non-vented kerosene heater (e.g. Perfection type) do not be lulled into a false sense of security that the detector will save you because my testing shows it won't!
    3. What you really need is an O2 Depletion Sensor which will sound an alarm when the ambient Oxygen level drops below 19.5%. (Reference here:http://indoorair.net/id70.htm )
    4. With a Perfection style heating appliance, in an enclosed (non-vented) space of about 800 sq ft., the O2 level will be depleted to the point you get carbon strings hanging in the air (the so-called "BSOD" "The Black Soot Of Death") within 6 hrs. 
    5. A brand new First Alert model CO615 read 109 ppm when the Perfection heater was spewing "BSOD" but there was no alarm. According to Underwriters Laboratories, Inc. standard UL2034, the alarm must sound between 1hr and 6 hrs at this level because this level is not lethal for an extended period of time! However the lack of O2 certainly is!
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Clearly this time frame is too long! You will be dead from Oxygen depletion long before the CO alarm goes off!
Here is how I tested: In a garage of about 800 sq ft, with low ceilings I placed a Perfection 730 with a full fount and topped with a Military Thermo-electric fan. On the wall, 10 ft away I installed a new First Alert model CO615 CO monitor.
I deliberately did not open a window 1" as is my usual practice. I wanted to see the CO level rise on the First Alert CO monitor. I checked the monitor every half hour. There was nothing for the first 5-1/2 hrs. Sometime between 5-1/5 and 6 hrs, apparently the Oxygen levels in the garage dropped to the point the "BSOD" started. As others have reported, it turns a room black! Yet there was no alarm sounding. The heater was shut off and the thermo-electric fan removed. Windows were opened and a fan installed in 1 window as a sucker.
Observations:
    1. An Oxygen sensor would have been more effective than a Carbon Monoxide sensor. I only think the CO levels rose when there wasn't sufficient O2 to support proper combustion.
    2. Research showed there are not any residential Oxygen Depletion sensors available for home use. So it is mandatory 1 window in each room there is a Perfection type kerosene heater operating, be open 1". I have tested this extensively, with numerous heaters in various rooms and it never fails.
    3. To remove "BSOD", DO NOT USE WATER! The carbon strings will smear and streak.
    4. If you do use something wet and made a mess, use a 1 to 1 ratio of Vinegar and hot water.
    5. Use a shop vac with the round brush head and dry vacuum the "BSOD" up. It is the most effective way to remove the carbon strings.
    6. The "BSOD" sure screws up a clean, restored Perfection! Note to self: DON'T DO THIS TEST AGAIN! THE CO MONITOR READS CARBON MONOXIDE,SO IT WORKS. IT JUST WON'T TRIP FOR HOURS. KEEP LOOKING FOR A RESIDENTIAL OXYGEN DEPLETION SENSOR.
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Greg Hall
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Reply with quote  #2 
Helpful information, thank you. Truthfully, I never crack a window when I burn a kerosene heater but perhaps I should. We had a CO monitor and one day last spring it started beeping non stop but showed 0.0 ppm. The instructions on the back said that means the unit should be disposed of and replaced with a new one. I never got around to it but again, I probably should.
Fran365

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Reply with quote  #3 
Mr Hall, great work.the final conclusion is to have a air source available. This is really not that hard, the same holds true for wood stoves, they need air. Modern building techniques with plastic sheets in the wall (vapor barriers) would maximize the problem of air. I have wondered, a 30" by 1" window opening = 30sq"s. About a 5"-6"circle. So if you had a home with a crawl or cellar and had a spot where your heater was to be placed you could have a 6" duct or register in the floor to feed the fire outside air with perhaps less draftiness. I have also considered using a unused thimble to provide air to a kerosene heater: and elbow, straight pipe to the floor and another elbow facing the heater. A damper in the pipe could block cold air when not in use. Anybody follow me? Fran
Lamplighter44

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Reply with quote  #4 
Your idea makes sense..  My home is quite tight and oxygen consumption has for years caused downdrafts through two fireplace, and one stove chimney.  When moving in, and doing some finish work  in the basement I did not even think of having the foundation bored to run a 6" vent to the back of the furnace.. That would have been a good idea.. Now, I wonder about running a 3" aluminum flue from the water heater up the tile chimney liner and extending  about a foot above the top of the tile.  The remainder of the flue tile could allow outside air to come into the furnace room to replace that which is being consumed... Just another idea..  Any opinions, better ideas, etc. on the topic are welcome.

Fran365

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Reply with quote  #5 
Hi Lamplighter44, our discussion warrants a new post subject," Kerosene appliance designs" is my pick. I'll be posting a reply there. Fran
vrod

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Reply with quote  #6 
Nice work, Greg.  Very informative and interesting.  The pictures of your heater are downright scary! 
Rene B

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Reply with quote  #7 
That was very informative. So really do CO detector have a purpose or are they a false sense of security ?
TechEditor

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Reply with quote  #8 
If you have non-vented gas heaters, water heaters, cooktops, then I would recommend them. If you are using Kerosene, oxygen deprivation is more of a concern and the Co Monitor is just a code required "feel good" piece of equipment. Just open a window 1"!
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