CO Detector Went Off!!!

Modern and vintage hand fired coal stove are similar to a wood stove and in some cases can burn either. They need to be regulated and fed by hand usually every 12 to 24 hours depending on your usage. They require no power to operate making them ideal for rural settings with long power outages.
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cokehead
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Stove/Furnace Make: Locke, Godin, Tarm in da works
Stove/Furnace Model: Warm Morning 617-A, 3721, 502
Location: Mystic, CT
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Post Tue. Jan. 13, 2009 12:18 am

I have been operating a Godin 3721 in my mother's basement for a second season. I have found that nut coal is best in that stove. I have been able to keep it going for weeks at a time. I only tend it once a day but my mother adds some coal durring the day to keep it going til I get there. We had a system worked out and seemed to be in the groove. Well I bought some second hand anthricite from a gentlemen who was switching to wood pellets. The coal was very hard and shiny for the most part but one bag I opened (he filled them) had a lot of fines (coal more like a course sand) It must of been the "dregs from the bottom of his coal bin. I don't normally deal with "fines" in such high concentrations and I figured it will burn and poured some in mixed with the otherwise good nut coal. Well that was a big mistake. That was about 7PM Saturday. The next day I phoned and my mother said the stove wasn't putting out much heat. I told her to open the draft more and keep an eye on it. Well about 6PM she calls me and tells me the CO detector is going off and she thinks the fire is out. I raced (7.4 miles) over to her house and found she had opened the front door, a basement window and another window upstairs and the detector had stopped sounding off. She didn't have any symtoms of CO poisoning and the house was well ventilated and chilly. The belly of the stove still seemed warm but the stove pipe was ice cold. I shook the grates and a lot of fine ash came out into the room which was definitly not normal. The ash tray had a lot of black unburned fines mixed with ash and some red hot fines (burning). I got rid of it. There was still some burning coal in on the grates but the most of the coal column that had been in the stove 23 hours was black and the chimney was drafting down. I put some crumpled news paper on top of the coal and the smoke just poured into the room. Good thing the window was still open. I figured the only way I was going to get thing back to normal was to get some HEAT in the chimney so it would draft properly by burning news paper and kindling on top of the coal. The second time I tried the stove smoked a lot but eventually it started to draft UP the chimney and I kept putting kindling on top of the coal that was loaded the day before and kept it going for over 2 hours. The strong draft created by the kindling burning brought the coal fire at the grates back to life. It took almost 3 hours to revive the fire but it is back to normal now.

To stop this from happening again I have resovled to never attempt to burn coal with a high concentration of fines. I took a 5 gallon pail with the bottom cut out and secured a piece of hardware cloth to it. If I come across coal that I surpect has too high a concentration of fines I screen it and will dispose of the "fines" rather than have them choke (reduce the airflow through the bed of coal) the fire, cool off the chimney, causing a downdraft which could of resulted in a CO poisoning. My father (who has passed on) insisted on a CO detector years ago (before the coal stove) and suggested I get one also which I did. Little did he know that his good sense might of saved my mother's life yesterday. Please learn from my mistake.

I have a vague recollition of 3 eldely sisters who died from CO poisoning sitting around their coal stove. It was in the news years ago. Does any one recall that incident? Does anyone know WHY it happened?
"When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic. As we must account for every idle word, so must we account for every idle silence. Half a truth is often a great lie. He that lives upon hope will die fasting. Rather go to bed with out dinner than to rise in debt. The Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself." Benjamin Franklin

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braindead
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Post Tue. Jan. 13, 2009 12:46 am

I'm glad your mother is OK! Something like that is my biggest worry. My mother told me once that when she was little (1920's) every year they would hear of at least one family killed by "coal gas". People would try to damp down the fire way low at night to save coal, sometimes by sprinkling ashes on the fire. I guess a similar thing would happen. Anyway, your experience makes me want to go out and buy another CO detector tomorrow. (I have 2, but one is getting old).

I don't recall hearing of the incident with the 3 sisters though...

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Freddy
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Stoker Coal Boiler: Axeman Anderson 130 (pea)
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Coal Size/Type: Pea size, Superior, deep mined
Location: Orrington, Maine

Post Tue. Jan. 13, 2009 3:13 am

Sorry you had such a close call. Thanks for sharing & the tips.

With magic marker, write the date of purchase on each CO detector.Maybe give yourself one every third Christmas and through them out when they reach nine years. After a while you'll always have three of different ages.
Orrington, Maine
Fred

"If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all".

Mountainman37
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Post Tue. Jan. 13, 2009 6:26 am

wow, Cokehead, that's scary!

That's a darn good lesson for all of us! Thank goodness your mom is OK! And so good she had a CO detector....so many don't bother....or figure a smoke detector is good enough!

Freddy, thank you for pointing out a little known fact that CO detectors have life spans and must be replaced. I will take your excellent advice and get myself a 3rd detector and it will go in the basement where the stove is. The other two are upstairs in the hall, one at the cellar door entrance the other at the bedroom end of the hall.

I've also been told to put them fairly low....as CO is heavier than air and flows along the floor....so mounting a detector on the wall about 18" off the floor is about right.

Mountainman37

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tvb
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Post Tue. Jan. 13, 2009 8:53 am

It's actually about the same density and any air currents in the room (i.e.- convection fans, heat, etc) will mix it pretty quickly with the room air.

You can put the detectors at any height you want.

Here's a decent link that explains the makeup of it - http://www.newton.dep.anl.gov/askasci/chem03/chem03364.htm

ken
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Post Tue. Jan. 13, 2009 9:18 am

Glad everything turned out OK. Your Mom new what to do and thats good. You have to wonder years ago when there were no CO detectors , how many people died because they didn't have them then. :(
"Politicians are like socks; if you don't change them often enough they start to stink."

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coal berner
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Location: Pottsville PA. Schuylkill County PA. The Hart Of Anthracite Coal Country.

Post Tue. Jan. 13, 2009 9:21 am

Freddy wrote:Sorry you had such a close call. Thanks for sharing & the tips.

With magic marker, write the date of purchase on each CO detector.Maybe give yourself one every third Christmas and through them out when they reach nine years. After a while you'll always have three of different ages.
Co Detector should be replaced with in 5 to 7 years depending on the unit brand and how many times it goes off
each time it goes off the sensor gets weaker if you look on the back of the unit itwill have a date on it when it was
made 5 to 7 years from that date Get a new one . In side the instuctions will tell you either 5 years or 7 years to
Replace the unit . never seen them say 9 years I have 6 different units 5 to 7 years is when the tell you to replace
them .
J.C.

Heating house & water with a 1986 electric furnace man DF520 using buckwheat Anthracite coal

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Freddy
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Stoker Coal Boiler: Axeman Anderson 130 (pea)
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Coal Size/Type: Pea size, Superior, deep mined
Location: Orrington, Maine

Post Tue. Jan. 13, 2009 12:29 pm

coal berner wrote:Co Detector should be replaced with in 5 to 7 years depending on the unit brand
Thank you! For some reason I was thinking they went 10 years and my nine year idea was to replace them a bit early. So, maybe buy a new one every two years and get on a 6 yr schedule.
Orrington, Maine
Fred

"If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all".

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MountainPreacher
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Post Tue. Jan. 13, 2009 4:03 pm

WOW! Thankfully you still have your Mom! And, thank God in Heaven above for giving men the know-how to make CO detectors!
Harman Mark II In Northeast Pennsylvania, Obama is NO savior, he can't even make a cabinet!

franco b
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Post Wed. Jan. 14, 2009 12:04 pm

I am old enough to remember when about half of all homes were still heated with coal. Many times when going into a friends house I could smell fumes from the boiler or furnace. A sulfur smell. Every year there would be deaths from coal burning.

The stoves were just not tight enough with doors that were not gasket ed and ash pan doors and ash pits that leaked air. I have even seen on boilers and parlor stoves a door called check draft which was simply an opening at the top of the stove to admit room air much as a barometric damper does but without the ability to automatically close if draft is low. You can picture the result.

Ridhard

Dann757
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Post Wed. Jan. 14, 2009 3:31 pm

I think CO binds to your hemoglobin in your blood and won't let go. Deadly stuff. My chimney is very short so I don't think it loses its draft as long as the interior air is slightly warmer.

My wealthy customer watched a morning news show about CO detectors and asked me to get her a couple of them. I just got a Kidde digital readout model for myself that I mounted on a wall. Wanting to save her money I got 2 of the Kidde model that plugs directly into an outlet. I took both out of the packages, pulled the tape that energizes the battery back-up, and left them on her kitchen table. Then I went outside and both detectors were going off really loud. The maid came downstairs and boy was she annoyed! I ran back in and grabbed the detectors, ran outside with them blaring, and waved them through the air, thinking they were defective. Ear piercing noise! I finally saw a little button on the back of the detectors that gets pushed in as long as the detector is plugged in! It's a safety button in case the detector comes out of the receptacle.
So much for neglecting the instructions. I'm going to ask her if she would prefer a disc-shaped CO detector that mounts on the wall or ceiling; this particular model is a little boxy and takes away an outlet. The life of a handyman.

Gary L
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Hand Fed Coal Stove: Russo #1
Stove/Furnace Make: Russo
Location: Forestburgh, NY

Post Wed. Jan. 14, 2009 4:12 pm

Just a quick side note worth posting. Detectors, both smoke and CO2, can have their life span cut in half if the people in the home they are in are smokers.

My brother runs an alarm company that sells and installs both types and they also will install the battery operated ones when asked. In homes with smokers his install crews see it all the time where the units are clogged from the nicotine and also the detectors closest to the kitchens can get funky from cooking greases from frying foods.

I love freddy's idea to buy a new one or two every 2 years and mark them with a date.

I am a bug about new batteries and replacing them when I switch the clocks back and forth for daylight savings. We are smokers so I checked my detectors this year and sure enough, the one nearest the kitchen was nasty and the one just off the living room was not much better. Rather then take a chance I replaced both and added a new CO2 one.

I do not have a draft issue with my stove but there are days when it seems the O/S preasure is heavy and my stove wants to just chug along and never really gets up to normal operating temps. These are the days when I worry and I always know when they are here because my neighbor burns wood in an old smoke dragon and I can see it hanging right above his roof.

Now for the good news, The last time I had to refire my stove from a lost fire was Nov. 15th, 60 days tomorrow without loosing a fire! :D

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grizzly2
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Hand Fed Coal Stove: Hitzer 30 - 95
Coal Size/Type: pea and nut/ anthracite
Other Heating: Jotul #3 wood stove in garage. Oil backup in house. Electric backup in house.
Location: Whippleville, NY

Post Wed. Jan. 14, 2009 4:24 pm

Thanks to all who have brought up the CO2 and smoke detector advise. I am a smoker and have had the same CO2 detector for about 10 years. Also I haven't tested the smoke detectors lately. I will buy a new CO2 detector on my nest trip the the city, and check smoke detectors tomorrow. :oops:
The only redeeming value of winter is that I can have a fire in my stove.

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tvb
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Post Wed. Jan. 14, 2009 5:52 pm

Grizzly,

Amazon generally has very good prices on CO detectors - better than Home Despot last time I bought some.

Gary L
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Post Wed. Jan. 14, 2009 6:04 pm

tvb wrote:Grizzly,

Amazon generally has very good prices on CO detectors - better than Home Despot last time I bought some.
I'll agree with this as long as you don't get hosed on the rediculous shipping these days. I would avoid Ebay and probably pay double just to be sure I get what I pay for!

If Griz lives in an area like I am in and only gets to town/city once in a while I think the extra cost to have it now is worth it for the safety of my family.

Moms can't be replaced but the $10 extra bucks can.

It is very important that we never loose sight of what is really important while we are trying to save a few bucks. SAFETY FIRST!

Gary

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