I apologize in advance for the length of this post but I've got a number of things to say that I think are worth taking the time to read. I will use paragraghs to make it mo' better to read.
Tuesday evening at dinner time the CO detectors in my home started going off. Now I'm used to the smoke detectors going off at dinner time. That means the food is just about ready.
But I've got those Nighthawk combination smoke and CO detectors that are interconnected throughout my home. These are the ones that beep and talk and that lady was clearly saying "Warning - Carbon monoxide." Crap, now I had a serious problem. Eat the broiled salmon that smelled and looked delicious and maybe fall face down in my plate.....or see what the frick was wrong. I chose the latter.
Now I will confess I'm a smoke and CO detector freak. I've got 13 interconnected units in my home, 2 on each level are combination smoke and CO. I've also got a standalone CO in the boiler room with the digital display. All were screaming and the digital display said 56 ppm. So I knew it was the real deal. The puzzling part to me was that there was absolutley no suphur odor. I know CO has no odor but until Tuesday I believed that CO related to a coal burner would always have that odor. Not so. First lesson learned
I shut down the boiler (Yes I'm out of the 1 match club) and opened the windows. I think it was about 12 degrees with a nice breeze and that CO up and vanished like a fart in the wind. (Shawshank Redemption reference) I dragged out the vent pipe for the oil boiler and reconnected it to the chimney and fired up the oil burner. Then I ate the salmon. It was very good. Now I know being a long time coal burner I should have finished dinner and torn right into the coal boiler to see what was wrong. Afterall I'm the freaking State Mod for god's sake. But a funny thing happened. I said screw it. I worked all day, it was a nasty cold, windy day all day so I opened a Yuengling and watched TV. Yes down in the basement a horrible, disgracefull thing was happening. Fuel oil was being sucked through a piece of copper tubing, pumped and sprayed into a fine mist and ignited. But I didn't care. Richard, if this costs me my state modship, I understand.
I had to work all day Wednesday and that evening I had a family commitment that I could not dismiss so another 24 hours went by with the coal boiler idle and the oil boiler doing its dirty deed. By this time the guilt of it all was almost too much to bear. Everytime I heard that boiler fire, a little piece of me died. But Thursday I was not scheduled to work so I knew there was an end in sight. In the mean time I had figured out what had happened. No it wasn't a clogged vent pipe. I have vacuumed out the vent pipe at least 4 times since October including last weekend. It was due to greed and stupidity.
Most who read this forum regularly know my boiler struggles in extreme weather. I'm asking it to heat an area on the edge of its limits. So to that end with the recent cold snap I've been pushing fire right to the end of the grate and I had my draft dialed back to .02 trying to squeeze every btu out of it. And that brings me back to the salmon. Things were getting a little smokey in the kitchen Tuesday evening so the exhaust fan got turned on to pull the smoke out. Also the clothes dryer was running. So you can see where this is leading. The combination of the negative pressure from the dryer and kitchen exhaust overcame the draft just enough to pull CO into the basement through the boilers hopper. So the second lesson I've learned is not to try and get too cute with my fire and draft during extreme weather. I'm going to run it like I know it should be run and if that doesn't quite cut it, I'm going to have to drag out that oil boiler vent pipe and do the nasty again.
I think I may start a support group called "coal boiler supplementers anonymous." The purpose will be to help deal with the shame felt by those who must admit failure of the coal boiler to fully carry the load. Oh I can hear you guys titttering with your hi powered EFM's, AHS's and the like. But I will continue to hold my head high. After all I'm still savings thousands every year with my boiler. So the main lesson learned is not to try to skate too close to the edge of the ice or you will fall through. Oh yeah. Always have lots of redundant CO detector protection.