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October 2007 Newsletter         
                     View an index of all our newsletters

Carbon Monoxide:
The Odorless Killer

Want to bet? I’ll bet you that, just like every year, within the next sixty days you will read a newspaper article or hear on TV about a death from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. About six weeks ago several Virginia Tech college students in off-campus housing were sickened by a faulty water heater that was discharging CO.

Alban Home Inspection Service recommends installation of at least two carbon monoxide detectors in every home with gas or oil fired equipment, one above the equipment and one in the master bedroom. It’s good for repeat business when our clients wake up in the morning!

Many jurisdictions have amended their building codes or other ordinances requiring the installation of carbon monoxide detectors in new homes with oil or gas fired heating equipment. Even some utility companies require CO detectors in new homes built under certification programs.

The Maryland legislature amended the seller disclosure law to add disclosure regarding CO detectors. The Maryland Association of Realtors has amended the Maryland Single Family Residential Property Condition Disclosure Law form to add a new item ten under Section A requiring disclosure “If the property relies on the combustion of a fossil fuel for heat, ventilation, hot water, or clothes dryer operation, whether a carbon monoxide alarm is installed on the property.”

Carbon Monoxide is a potentially deadly gas that is odorless, tasteless, and invisible. It is produced wherever there is incomplete combustion. Since combustion is never 100% efficient, any combustion appliance can pose a threat. Woodstoves, fireplaces, gas ranges, and even cars in an attached garage can produce dangerous levels of CO.

The factors that influence the danger of CO are poor maintenance, improper installation, worn or broken burners or other combustion equipment, and sloppy construction. It is more than an annual occurrence that during a home inspection, an Alban home inspector finds back drafting from a gas-fired water heater’s flue pipe. The National Safety Council research estimates that about 300 people are killed each year from CO poisoning. Many thousands more are sickened annually by the odorless gas.

The percentage of carbon monoxide in the blood is based on parts per million and a person’s exposure to it. Although concentrations of 15,000 ppm can kill within minutes, it is more common that longer exposures to smaller concentrations kill. Exposure to concentrations of just 350 ppm for one hour can cause headaches, nausea, vomiting and fatigue. These symptoms are often confused for the flue. Exposure to this same level for four hours can cause brain damage.

There are workplace rules for CO exposure. The current Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) permissible exposure limit for carbon monoxide is 50 ppm of air during an 8- hour workday. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has established a recommended exposure limit for carbon monoxide of 35 ppm during an 8- our workday.

I was called by a well-known Real Estate Manager in Montgomery County to perform mold testing in the office, since many of the Realtors complained of breathing difficulties and other ailments when they were in the office. Mold was negative, but when I returned to the office to deliver the laboratory results and written report, I could only find a parking space on the side of the building. My car’s tailpipe was directly in front of the air intake for the Real Estate office’s through-the-wall heat pump. They were getting a continuous stream of carbon monoxide from automobiles into the office.

Also, think about mechanics working in an enclosed garage with insufficient ventilation. This subject hits home for me. Many years ago my favorite uncle died from CO poisoning while working on his old jalopy in his home’s garage.

Outside air is estimated to be between 0.5 and 5 ppm. Five to ten ppm is added with gas range cooking, and unvented space heaters can raise the levels to 39 ppm. It is typically faulty space heaters in a bedroom that we read about early each heating season.

The only way to avoid the dangers of combustion devices is to isolate them in an area sealed off from the rest of the home’s living area. This is usually impractical, so the risk from combustion appliances make CO detectors a wise choice for all homes with gas or oil-fired equipment. A CO detector is an excellent and inexpensive gift for Realtors to give their clients after settlement. As stated above, it’s good for repeat business keeping clients alive. It’s also an inexpensive insurance against the dangers of CO exposure, poisoning and death. A properly installed CO detector can save lives.

Alban is proud to offer FREE Continuing Education Courses in Real Estate Offices!
Call Tina to schedule one of our educational seminars, for additional information, or to schedule our services at 800-822-7200 or 301-662-6565.

From the Desk of
Arthur Lazerow

Alban Inspectors Excel

One of the pleasures of having a multiinspector home inspection company is
watching my colleagues grow, achieve
and excel in their chosen professions as
home and lead-based paint inspectors.
Over the past thirteen years, eleven with
multiple inspectors, we have given our
best efforts to represent our home buying
clients properly. To a great degree, we
have succeeded. Our call backs are
minimal and the number of satisfied
clients many.

We get complementary letters. It’s
flattering when a client takes time to
reflect on the quality of our work and
feels sufficiently pleased with the
outcome of an inspection and
appreciative to write a note. Joe
Dempsey, our newest inspector, received
this complement from one of his very
first clients. “Wonderful service!
Very professional.”

J.B. from Frederick wrote about Rodney
Shull: “Rodney was fantastic. We are
first time homebuyers and he really made
things very easy to understand and was
extremely professional and personable.”

And from a property management firm,
the President wrote about Quintin
Satterfield, our chief lead-based paint
inspector for the last eleven years: “We
have come to rely on his knowledge and
information and appreciate the time he
has taken this month and in the past in
guiding us in our compliance. Please
thank Quintin, once again, for me. We
appreciate the service your office
provides and congratulate Art and all of
you in your business.”

How sweet it is! And how proud I am to
be associated with each of the Alban

Electrical Safety:
Get An Electrician

Unless you are an electrician or otherwise skilled with electricity, never perform electrical work yourself. Here’s a test. Do you know what OHM’s law is? Do you know West Virginia? These are variances of the same formula expressing the relationship between watts, volts and amps.

WVA is a shorthand way to remember that Watts = Volts times Amps. We pay for electricity based on the number of Kilowatts used each month by our home.

The Voltage is a measure of the muscle to push electrons through the wires. The American standard is 120 volts delivered to a home by the power company. Amperage is a measure of the amount of work done by the particular component or apparatus, or said another way, how much current it draws.

A hundred watt bulb, for instance, based on 120 volts, does .9 amps of work. A 1500 watt hair dryer draws 13.6 amps, which is nearing the capacity of a normal 15 amp. circuit breaker.

Everyone must respect electricity. We cannot see it, but touch a hot wire and you will sure feel it! Call a licensed electrician for all electrical work.

Integrity in Home Inspecting, Confidence in Home Owning The ASHI Experience