1. Welcome Hearth.com Guests and Visitors - Please enjoy our forums!
    Hearth.com GOLD Sponsors who help bring the site content to you:
    Hearthstone Soapstone and Cast-Iron stoves( Wood, Gas or Pellet Stoves and Inserts)

Carbon Monoxide OVER AND OVER and no solutions - PLEASE HELP US!!!!!!!!!!

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by norwegn@mwt.net, Feb 9, 2009.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. norwegn@mwt.net

    norwegn@mwt.net New Member

    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2009
    Messages:
    34
    Loc:
    Wisconsin
    We live in a 50 year old home in Wisconsin. We had a wood stove put in our basement in November, but had the wrong parts that day, so they left it out on the hearth pads but hooked it up and said we could go ahead and run it until they could come back. They didn't come back for 2 months (and only remembered after we called and said we had the fire department here) and I kept feeling light headed and checked our detectors frequently and nothing showed up. Finally, the fire chief said they were 12 years old and not working and we had been experiencing levels of 24 - 60+ during that time. I had been running a barn fan at the base of the stairs to push the warm air up, which they said could have created the negative pressure, but thankfully I did, because the CO levels were not as high in the boys' downstairs bedrooms as they were by the stove and upstairs. We now have new detectors all over and I've told everyone I know to get rid of old ones.

    They came back to finish the install and stuck the stove back in where it was supposed to be with the right pieces and said no problem. He asked me to not run the fam, so I stopped. After a few days, the new detectors went off again and again, with levels from 24 – 60+. He said it could be from a car running in the garage, but ironically, when the stove doesn’t run, there is never an alarm that goes off. We turn on the vehicles, immediately back up, shut the door, and leave. On cold days, we do the same and the car runs to warm up about 15 feet away from the garage. We rarely re-enter the house after backing out and shutting the door, and when we have, it wasn't a day it went off.

    The fire chief has been here over and over and checked everything in our home. If the stove hasn't been run for days, we are at zero everywhere. When they put a smoke bomb in there, there isn't visible smoke coming out from the stove unit, but our home does smell more smokey that I'd ever experienced in our old home with stove. If our woodstove has been running, that is when we get alarms, but not all the time. Our gas furnace is not yielding any results. Thinking we have a negative pressure issue, we put in a fresh air exchange system even though we have an air exchange system already in place with our gas furnace. After we installed that, we stoked up the stove, and two days later, even with the air exchanger, the readings were at 60+ again. After having it only since November, the fireplace guy even put his brush down and cleaned it out but there was almost nothing in there. We run it exactly as directed in the manual he left to help burn out the stuff left in the chimney. When the chief was here, he consistently had levels of 24 all over the upstairs and basement, with the most intense readings of 60 in the basement between the stove and stairs.

    Baffled, we then ran everything in the house in an attempt to create a negative environment to see if that was indeed causing the problem, the most negative we could. After letting the stove sit for days and we had a zero rating, we ran the stove exhaust, the bathroom exhaust, the hot water ran until the heater ran and kicked in, and everything in the house stayed closed. Of course, in that afternoon while they were all there, no reading occurred and no one knew what to say so they all left. I told him, just wait a few days and it will do it again. Now it is a few days later, and the alarm went off again. BUT, we only ran the exhaust fan for 15 minutes today, and had two quick showers and nothing else was creating a negative pressure.

    The fire department keeps coming out and have checked everything in the house and outside the house and no one has any idea what is going on. Today, it was blustery outside so he said it could be wind loading, but that wouldn’t explain the constant readings we had before. The wind was pretty still the first time the alarm went off, because the fire chief made note of that. We have had below zero temps for 3-4 weeks this winter and this is the first time we’ve had any snow melt since November, so you can see why we would rather be burning wood than gas!

    The last thing suggested is to plastic off our main living area that has the canned lighting to see if we don't get alarms going off (so to see if the cans create that negative pressure). Tough to do since we spend all of our time there.

    The fireplace guy's only solution when he left is that my son should sleep with his window open in the basement to equalize our negative pressure. I thought that was why we put in the fresh air exchange thing. What a great idea when it has been -10 to 10 above, and a great money saving idea so that our other furnace will kick in when the woodstove can’t keep up, not to mention my son freezing his toes off as that pours into his bedroom at the foot of his bed. Everyone is completely out of ideas and after being exposed to these levels for four months now (I work from home so I’m here all the time), we are about ready to make them take the stove back.

    Someone said that the canned lights in a bonus room could be sucking air out of the house somehow (there are 9). We have 3 gas fireplaces, and removed one to put this wood stove in, and there was never an issue when we ran the other stoves before. We haven’t been running those and they are not metering any CO, and neither are any appliances. The outside venting of the gas furnace is up and away from the air intakes just as they are supposed to be. The house is 50 years old and not airtight whatsoever (we were in the bidding process for new windows, but they said now that is a bad idea to make it more tight).

    Do you have any ideas of other things this could be? I'm not disclosing who the fireplace person is, because that doesn't matter. If he is reading this, I've attempted to create this document as accurately and fairly as possible.
    It is a Lopi Leyden Cast Iron DownDraft Wood Stove.

    PLEASE HELP!

    Helpful Sponsor Ads!





  2. NHFarmer

    NHFarmer Feeling the Heat

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2008
    Messages:
    290
    Loc:
    southeastern NH
    Tell us more about your chimney. Does it have a stainless steel or tile liner? inside or outside? It does sound like a draft issue. How tall is it?
  3. Dune

    Dune Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2008
    Messages:
    3,040
    Loc:
    Commonwealth Of Massachussetts
    Also do any other apliances share the same flue as the wood stove?
  4. colebrookman

    colebrookman Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Feb 7, 2008
    Messages:
    776
    Loc:
    Middlefield, Ma
    Yes we need more info. Is the gas chimney higher than the wood? Ever check the entire gas chimney? We had a squirrel plug one almost closed but you could not tell without checking well. The gas techs insisted it was not their stove but never really checked. It's probably a small leak that accumulates and finally sets off the alarm. I'd keep any elderly or infants away until you solve the case. CO builds in your blood stream replacing the O2, not good. Also next time it goes off just leave, call fire but don't open any windows or doors so the concentration will be higher. Do you use a gas stove or dryer? Don't give up this is very serious and death is permanent. Be safe and send more info soon.
    Ed
  5. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2005
    Messages:
    12,127
    Loc:
    Western Mass.
    It is extremely rare for any wood stove to put out CO without strong smells of the other stuff (smoke) which would accompany it. That points to something else......we do need to know the chimney situation.
  6. pen

    pen There are some who call me...mod. Staff Member

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2007
    Messages:
    7,303
    Loc:
    N.E. Penna
    do you have an Outside Air Kit (Oak) on your wood stove and/or the gas furnace?

    pen
  7. LeonMSPT

    LeonMSPT Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2008
    Messages:
    513
    Loc:
    From Maine, now living in Alaska
    Don't get it.

    Does the stove get "hot"?
    Any smoke back out the door when you open it to load?
    Ever check the draft with a manometer?


    I have a wood/coal boiler in an underhouse garage. Yeah, it replaced an oil fired hot water heater, and won't make any bigger explosion than the water heater should there be a gasoline spill in the garage. That said, all portable gas cans are outside in a barrel with a cover on it. Nothing with any fuel in it is any closer than fifteen feet away.

    That said, the only time I've ever had any CO on the new detector was when I start the car and back out, or drive in. Or I plow the yard with the ATV.

    It shows anywhere from 35 to 72 ppm when I bring up the memory. Outside of those times, reads "0" all the time.

    Cleanout door closed tightly and secured?

    Do you have a flat damper in the stove pipe? Open?
  8. LeonMSPT

    LeonMSPT Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2008
    Messages:
    513
    Loc:
    From Maine, now living in Alaska
    That said... you're smelling smoke. That's not a great thing.

    Even with the wood boiler burning wood, I might get a small puff of smoke out of it once in a great while when I open the door to load it, mainly before I go to bed and it's not quite down to coals... Other than that, no smell, ever. And I've never had a woodstove or fireplace insert let smoke smell back into the house except my parent's "slammer", which I redid a year ago last fall with an EPA insert and full 8 inch, zero clearance liner.

    They "never" smell smoke back in the house now... well, if they've got the front door open because it's too frigging hot in house they might if the wind is blowing right.

    The guys asking about the chimney are right...

    What is it hooked to, and how?

    Picture?
  9. rowerwet

    rowerwet Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2008
    Messages:
    1,092
    Loc:
    Merrimack Valley, MA
    sounds more like the negative pressure created by the wood stove is pulling in CO from another source. do you have a gas stove, oven, dryer, hot water heater, fireplace, or heater? my gues is that one of them is letting CO back into the house. The smoke should drive you out of the house long before a CO detector goes off if it is the wood stove.
  10. Corey

    Corey Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2005
    Messages:
    2,165
    Loc:
    Midwest
    If you're not already overloaded with questions:

    When do you tend to get the CO readings from the stove - is it when you have a fire actively burning, or when it burns down to coals?

    Does your furnace have a natural draft or a forced draft? Is there any relation between the furnace running (or not) and the CO alarms - sometimes, though not a true "negative pressure" issue, there can be "pressure balance" issues where the furnace blows more air upstairs/pulls more air from downstairs and may cause a flue reversal.

    Have you included your clothes dryer in your negative pressure tests? These can vent a large amount of air outside (many times what a bath fan will do) You mentioned several exhaust fans in the test, which are "the usual suspects" but the clothes dryer is sometimes overlooked.
  11. Martin Strand III

    Martin Strand III New Member

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2005
    Messages:
    763
    Loc:
    NW MI near nowhere
    You have identified your problem(s) in your first few sentences.

    Problem #1: 50 year old house - "leaks", house acts as a chimney making basement more depressurized

    Problem #2: Stove in the basement of an old leaky house - this is the MOST depressurized (poorest) place for a wood burning stove

    Problem #3: Your fan is pushing warm basement air up depressurizing the basement even more

    Solution #1: Tough since you can't make the old house "tight" or new or move the basement stove to the main floor level. I would try to pressurize the basement by directing your fan low on the main floor blowing cool main floor air down toward the basement (adding pressure not lessening pressure by blowing warm basement air up).

    Solution #2: If Solution #1 does not help, move and make better choices next time.

    Aye,
    Marty
    PS: Read up on your problems here:
    http://woodheat.org/outdoorair/outdoorairmyth.htm
  12. norwegn@mwt.net

    norwegn@mwt.net New Member

    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2009
    Messages:
    34
    Loc:
    Wisconsin
    OH MY...I thought I had given so much information but there is so much more to give.

    I'll do my best to give more tonight and then again tomorrow night.

    They shoved the pipe for the woodstove up along the pipe for the gas fireplace that is right above it on the main floor and they vent side by side out of the chimney at the top of our roofline. They said that it was difficult because they had to chip brick to get that thing through there and had to use a special tool to thread it up there. We rarely use that gas fireplace on the main level, and I know it wasn't running when it went off this last time.

    The gas furnace vents out on the E side of the house up about 3-4 feet above the ground. The cold air return is down near ground level as directed for installation and about 5 feet to the North. However, the problems were happening before we put in that new cold air vent thing to help solve the problem. The fire chief took readings at the gas furnace exhaust - high of course, and the cold air returns and those did not meter CO going back in according to what he told me.

    We have a basement, and a main floor on this ranch home and the chimney is out the top but I don't have a height. I read on a site about scientific tests about wood stoves and wind loads about some formula they use to put it in the right place, but I guess I expected a fireplace company with like 20 years of experience to know how to do that part so who am I to question that part?

    I did notice that it always seemed to go off around 11am when the levels got high enough to trigger the alarm. In the am when I get up and the fire has died to coals, I check every day. Mostly, it has been zero now that I'm consciously monitoring, and I check before opening the stove door to put in more wood. I let the fire get going nice and hot and burn it for 5-10 minutes of good hot flame, then close the damper down 3/4 of the way.

    In the am, we have two 10 minute showers, 10-15 minutes of bathroom exhaust, and that is it. I never do laundry or the dishwasher in the morning. I did laundry all day Saturday, and ran the dishwasher twice and one shower that day.......that should have created the negative pressure, but there was nothing. Zero all day and night that day. Those flues on the sides were checked and fine. The other pipe has not been checked for the gas fireplace. Readings around that fireplace have never been higher than the numbers in the whole rest of the upstairs area.

    We have a gas water heater, electric dryer, gas stove (newer with no pilot lights on top), two gas fireplaces upsptairs and that is it. All had zero readings when the fire chief came after the stove had been out for two days, and no jumps in readings around any items.

    I'll have to call the guy and see if I can get more specifics. So the two stacks (one for the gas fireplace and one for the wood fireplace) should not be side by side in one chimney?

    Thanks and I'll check for more info! I can't tell you how much I appreciate this! To top it off, our basement started to flood tonight with the sudden surge in warm weather. Unbelievable.

    :)
  13. rowerwet

    rowerwet Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2008
    Messages:
    1,092
    Loc:
    Merrimack Valley, MA
    I can't remeber where but someone else was having a similar problem due to both stacks venting right next to each other. One was actualy pulling smoke (in this case) back down the other flue. I am also wondering about the hot water heater exhaust, that would run the hardest during the showers. the negative pressure thing does sound like the culprit since you mentioned the part about the bedroom window. Mabey put a air intake on each side of the house into the basement? Just because a company is doing work for 20 years doesn't mean that the guy doing the install has been.
  14. norwegn@mwt.net

    norwegn@mwt.net New Member

    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2009
    Messages:
    34
    Loc:
    Wisconsin
    If that were the case, wouldn't we have some major readings right there at the gas fireplace?? I'm not trying to be rude by saying that, just trying to think out loud. The detector in the upstairs seems to be the most sensitive and goes off before the digital readout one does, but the levels are consistently high in the basement not by the gas fireplace. That detector is in the hall on the main level and about 5 feet away from the back side of the gas fireplace. The fire department hasn't read high levels there....just average compared to the whole house. I'm trying so hard to wrap my head around this and even the fire chief said he is lying in bed at night trying to understand.

    I'll see if I can get someone out to check that gas fireplace pipe to be sure that is clear.

    So is there a solution if having pipes side by side is the problem? Do you put one pipe higher or angle to the side or are we going to have to just pull the thing out??

    I bought a floor grate and I was going to cut a hole in the kitchen floor to allow the heat to rise up, but they have mixed opinions about if that would l make things better or worse for the CO situation.

    More ideas tomorrow................
    THANKS AGAIN! We are at zero right now. We'll see what the next 24 hours brings.
  15. Martin Strand III

    Martin Strand III New Member

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2005
    Messages:
    763
    Loc:
    NW MI near nowhere
    More problems identified in your rant.

    Problem #4: Your rant - way too many unrelated details. Look at the basics, calmly.

    Problem #5: Your basement wood stove chimney apparently joins the main floor gas chimney on an outside wall - far from ideal it is cold (compared to the chimney being central in the home) which creates easy downdrafts. This compounds the situation with depressurization (aka Problem #2).

    Revised solution: No doubt about it. If you don't read the recommended basic information on chimneys and depressurization, you'll never get a grasp of your problems.

    Aye,
    Marty
  16. colebrookman

    colebrookman Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Feb 7, 2008
    Messages:
    776
    Loc:
    Middlefield, Ma
    Just wondering
    1 When your stove was out and the chief checked each appliance they were running right. ( I know stupid question be we are all human. Had a call where the resident disconnected the alarm because his family could not sleep with the noise.)
    2 When the car is idling every morning is it near any vents, you do close the door right away, correct.
    3 I may have missed it but you did have your gas supplier check when it happens.
    4 Just to remind, get out without venting the house and call gas and fire. Our fire dispatch usually tells callers to vent, then get out. Makes it much harder to find the problem.
    5 Did you do any recent construction, insulation, that may have changed the dynamics beside the stove.
    6 Any close neighbors, any outside wood burners near. Be safe
    Ed
  17. edthedawg

    edthedawg Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2008
    Messages:
    878
    Loc:
    Northeast, CT
    Marty man, wanna go over to her house and kick her dog, too? She's here looking for help - let's not bash her... ;)

    WI Girl - The facts as I see them:

    1 - This only started when the stove went in
    2 - This doesn't happen at all unless the stove is running, and even then it takes a few days to "accumulate"

    Please confirm for absolutely positively sure that the woodstove flue is sealed around the liner at the top and the bottom. I don't know how your "Installer" put a sealing plate at the top of the chimney w/ 2 pipes sticking out of it, but if it is essentially an open chase between the woodstove liner and the surrounding masonry, I could see that being THE PATH for CO to re-enter the structure.


    Also you say you don't use those other two gas fireplaces at all? Including the one that shares the masonry flue w/ the woodstove? Before pulling anything out, I would try blocking those flues w/ some insulation material - make sure they are "locked out" (i.e. gas shut off) so they cannot be inadvertently turned on - but if you can seal those entry points for a few days, maybe that will help you narrow down the source of infiltration.

    Your gas hot water heater could be a source - has that unit and flue been checked? Those often have a motorized damper in them which needs to open - but I kinda doubt that's the source of the issue. Same for any other paints / chemicals in the basement - you have to narrow this down to just the pertinent features of the woodstove installation itself. I'm not 100% convinced that the woodstove is the SOURCE of the CO, but it's definitely PART of the CO infiltration problem.

    You've got our attention on this one - you and your family need to be safe! Please read up on the symptoms of CO poisoning - it's a tricky one, and can really sneak up on you guys.
  18. Larix

    Larix Member

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2008
    Messages:
    8
    Loc:
    Newark,OH
    I'd recommend talking to a different stove installer and having them inspect what the previous installer did.
  19. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2006
    Messages:
    9,830
    Loc:
    base of Mt. Rainier on the wet side, WA
    I suspect that all of the extra effort required to install the woodstove flue somehow caused it to leak into the house. They probably ripped the liner or broke a joint.
    You say you smell woodsmoke in your home and that's not supposed to happen. Nobody will know if the liner/flue system is intact without pulling it out and checking.
  20. JustWood

    JustWood Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Aug 14, 2007
    Messages:
    3,580
    Loc:
    Arrow Bridge,NY
    How about a drain or faulty trap in the sewage line.
  21. edthedawg

    edthedawg Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2008
    Messages:
    878
    Loc:
    Northeast, CT
    That sparks an interesting thought - running the stove could somehow be creating the draft necessary to pull sewer gases up and into the basement? I think they'd smell that tho - no?
  22. rustynut

    rustynut Feeling the Heat

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2008
    Messages:
    309
    Loc:
    mid mich
    wi girl,
    had a gas water heater once upon a time that was not getting proper draft.
    kept blowing the pilot out ?
    the outside air for one reason or another was entering the flue and rushing the pilot putting it out
    did some changes around the house and problem solved
    never did actually find the culprit but something was pulling air down the heater chimney...............
    while the air is being pulled into the house the exhause flow is also disrupted and my co alarm also went off
    i'm going to agree with pen
    suggest installing an outside air kit
    this dedicated air intake will not allow the stove to pull air for the burn process from anywhere else
    good luck
    rustynut
  23. karri0n

    karri0n New Member

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2008
    Messages:
    1,148
    Loc:
    Eastern CT
    I think it sounds like the wood stove is creating the neg. pressure, causing a downdraft from the gas furnace or water heater. Remember that a wood stove will pull more air than a range hood, exhaust fan, or clothes dryer.

    Is there a blockoff plate at the bottom of the chimney chase, directly above the wood stove?


    My other guess would be along the same lines as Highbeam's that the "shoving" another flue up next to the gas flue could have damaged the wood flue, causing some exhaust gases to downdraft through the chimney chase either in through the gas FP or around the blockoff plate and into the basement.


    IF either of these are the problem, and outdoor air kit will probably solve it. If the downdraft is not being caused by the stove, then I don't know.
  24. RichL35

    RichL35 Member

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2009
    Messages:
    45
    Loc:
    Halifax, MA
    I wonder if the strong draft that this stove creates may be pulling COs from another appliance in the house? Maybe that's why the highest concentration is found between the stove and stairs.
  25. steam man

    steam man Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2008
    Messages:
    652
    Loc:
    Northern Maine
    I think CZARCAR may have hit it on the head. I think I remember seeing this written up in chimney construction. Gas appliance flues usually can't be totally blocked off by a damper. You may have to block it off as someone else suggested.

    Mike
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page