This month's mysterious stumper comes from Gregory Plet, BPI certified pro from Northeast Energy Conservation, Inc in Fairfield, New Jersey.

Greg writes that one Friday he was doing a routine service check on an Orthodox Jewish customer's house in West Orange, New Jersey. As he walked into the house his Testo CO detector went off and was reading between 10 to 14 ppm (Ambient CO Level), in all rooms of the house. All the appliances appeared to be off. Greg ran a test on the domestic water heater, boiler and everything passed the test but the High CO Level. He thought maybe his CO alarm was defective, so he called in reinforcements - his co-worker Michael Labinski. But when Michael arrived his equipment got the same result! The two walked the house room by room, inside and outside, but couldn't find the source of the CO. When they asked the customer if they cooked before the visit, if they warmed up a car in the garage or any such activity, the answer was NO.

Do you know what was causing the high CO level?

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Replies to This Discussion

Sabbath candles?  Of course, those would be clearly visible.

The religious aspect probably plays a big part in this mystery. The orthodox Jewish customer was more than likely observing Shabbat. Candles were probably lit since there was no chance of electric lighting from being used. That would be my next step into solving this mystery.  John mitchell

Yeah, the story plainly mentions it was Friday and that they were Orthodox Jews.  I can't figure out, though, how a thorough search of the house would fail to turn up the burning candles.

Also, the Sabbath rules against using electricity might have led to something being turned OFF whose absence then causes the CO.  I haven't come up with any idea what that might be, though.

Orr, something for keeping food warm during the Sabbath?  It wouldn't necessarily be "cooking" anything.

They make ovens with a "Sabbath mode" function to keep food warm without having to do anything on the Sabbath. Sometimes they don't look like they're on. This is my guess.

After looking at Hot water heater and furnace.  I look where the gas line goes - fire place - heating - dryer - BBQ.  Then I look at what was heating up I was at a small room that had little sausage links precooked - got the CO up to 37 PPM.  Then l look outside - what smells?   I have found a 1966 Mustang cherry red super charged on start up 40,000 PPM  CO.   It was a 1/2 block away.  Keep looking  

Great thread - when will you post the solution?

There may not be a solution?

The detectors could have been giving false positive readings due to cleaning chemicals as it is customary to clean the house in preparation for the evening.  Stick your Bacharach Monaoxor III in a bottle of Pine Sol and you will see what I mean.

Since the obvious suspects for the CO were ruled out, certainly a head scratch moment.  If cooking ahead for the Shabbat was also ruled out, that has me thinking the Orthodox aspect may have led them to make an assumption and ignore one possibility.

Very tight home and smoking inside with smokeless ashtrays, while they remove the smell, the CO remains.  It's just odd that Ambient levels are consistent throughout the home.

Since Shabbat begins just before sunset, it also didn't seem likely anything to do with their observance of it besides pre-cooking meals would come into play.  How often does anyone do a "Routine Service Check" on Friday evening?

Being a novice at CO, I looked up permissible and ambient levels that appear to be 10 PPM and about 2 PPM over 8 hours respectively. CO alarms cannot display values under 30 PPM due to false alarms. ASHRAE says indoor should not be above 9 PPM.

I assume that "ambient" is the value of outdoor air around the house which would form the minimum that it could possibly be indoors since human activity and appliances could only make this larger. Then, what was the ambient outdoor reading?

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