A news headline caught my attention, "Man hospitalized for signs of carbon monoxide poisoning at Yarmouth home".  Not all of the details, but if we take the liberty of reading between the lines, it looks like our recent snow was deep enough to block the vents on this home's heating system.  My guess would be a direct vent high efficiency condensing furnace.  I'm not sure what Yarmouth got for total snow, guessing about 20", but light and fluffy with very strong winds it could have drifted 8 to 10 feet along the side of a house.  I doubt we will see the conclusion on this as to exactly what happened, but placement of those through the wall vents needs to be well planned.  I did see there was no CO detector and perhaps it would have helped with these extreme levels.


Man hospitalized for signs of carbon monoxide poisoning at Yarmouth...

Tags: Carbon, Monoxide

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Link doesn't work Bud?

I doubt Direct Vent as the lack of oxygen should trip the safeties - could easily be a power vented, naturally vented unit that got clogged, pipe got knocked loose or they used their oven or something else for heating.

Don't I hate links that vaporize over night.  I did a search and found another:


But just in case it dries up, I've copied the article below, credit the link above.

"By Beth Brogan, BDN Staff

Posted Jan. 28, 2015, at 8:40 a.m.
Last modified Jan. 28, 2015, at 12:05 p.m.

YARMOUTH, Maine — A Yarmouth man was rushed to Maine Medical Center in Portland on Wednesday morning after fire and rescue personnel found him alone in his home suffering from the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Yarmouth rescue workers were called at 7:15 a.m. to the Hillside Street home, and on arrival immediately determined there was “an extremely dangerous level” of carbon monoxide in the home, Deputy Chief Richard Kindelan said Wednesday.

The home had not been plowed or shoveled out, and Kindelan said emergency crews had a difficult time gaining access to the residence until a Good Samaritan plowed the driveway.

Kindelan said vents to the furnace were completely covered by snow, and no carbon monoxide detector was installed in the home.

The deputy chief encouraged people to make sure vents from all heating sources remain clear of snow and ice, and asked residents to keep their driveways passable in case emergency crews need to reach them.

The condition of the patient, whose name was not disclosed, was not immediately available."


I got a call yesterday from a homeowner who had a direct vent furnace installed a year ago and she said it quit working in the middle of the night the night prior.  Sent a tech. over and the termination being buried in snow was the cause!!!

Hi Chad, I sure would like to hear the follow-up on what caused the CO issue down there.  As your call indicated, a direct vent unit should shut down if the vent is obstructed and if the unit is sealed, how would the CO get back into the house even if it tried to keep running, like partially obstructed.  I'm showing my ignorance on the topic of HVAC, being we aren't supposed to touch up here.

BTW, the storm before this last monster was kind of unique. The 3 or 4 inches of slightly granular snow seemed perfect for covering all of the ridge vents.  We always hear it can do that, but it was unique to see so many totally covered.  Of course the horrible winds took care of that problem.  Don't think the next one is going to be as easy to shovel.


Code and manufacturers' approvals may be there, but we work hard to separate exhaust and intake whenever possible.  It's just good housekeeping.

Here is a more detailed article about the incident.  Rescuers measured 1,000 ppm in the bedroom! A picture of the concentric vent is shown and it looks like the intake is partially blocked with snow.   

Dale, thanks for the follow up article.  Energy auditors are certainly on the front line when it comes to identifying these potential problems before they become tragic and our new more frequent approach to direct venting needs more consideration, especially in heavy snow country.  But even areas that may only see a once in 5 year monster storm, it only takes a few hours of a blocked vent to become a problem. 

If there are detection systems on an appliance to shut them down when blocked we should know what they are.  If there are none, the home owner needs to know.  Relying on a CO detector is a last resort, but sure better than nothing.


Those of us who know the story about CO detectors need to work to get low-level ones required, or have the UL listing require one that really protects human life.  The home store things will hopefully prevent death, depending upon the person, but allowing up to 29 PPM forever is not a device that is providing adequate protection.  The man in this story could have been alerted to the problem at 7 PPM, rather than having to endure 1,000 PPM for some period, and would have had the strength to walk out of the house.  I can't imagine that he doesn't have some permanent damage from being exposed to that level, and he's lucky to be alive.  Work on your personal safety folks.


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