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Carbon monoxide hazards are real

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drayman86

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Last week, my buddy and I experienced a pretty severe episode of CO poisoning while brewing in the garage. I became very light-headed, and he nearly lost conciseness.

Yesterday we brought along an OSHA-type CO monitoring device, and were able to determine the source was the hot liquor tank burner. Combination of dirty/corroded burner and burner placed too close to the bottom of the HLT nearly "snuffing" the burner flame were causing incomplete propane combustion and massive amounts of CO.

Lucky that we were familiar with the signs and symptoms of CO exposure, and could measure levels accurately to pinpoint a source. Levels returned to normal following a burner cleaning and burner repositioning.

Keep those burners clean and watch out for incomplete combustion. Pay attention to proper ventilation. We're going to have a full-time monitor in our garage for CO from here on out.
 

Chriso

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Good warning, thanks for posting this - I'm glad you and your friend made it through alive to tell the story!

Be safe, all!
 

Pugilist

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Glad to hear you two are ok. I hope you went to the hospital to get checked out. After an exposure that almost made you lose consciousness it is a good idea to have the blood, etc checked, as those were probably some pretty high levels.
 

malkore

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props to you for posting this. it can be a real problem when people don't think about CO poisoning when brewing in confined spaces.

I'm very glad you and your buddy were aware of the potential and recognized the early symptoms, since CO poisoning is such a rapid progression to unconsciousness.

And I definitely agree, the $20 CO monitor is worth it for garage/basement brewers. I know BierMuncher brews in his basement, with a vent fan running and a CO monitor nearby.
 

mrfocus

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malkore said:
And I definitely agree, the $20 CO monitor is worth it for garage/basement brewers.
Yup, it's a must. If I were doing all-grain and didn't have one, I'd brave the 10-15F and brew it outside. (Unfortunately AG will be for this summer)
 

BierMuncher

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malkore said:
...I know BierMuncher brews in his basement, with a vent fan running and a CO monitor nearby...
Two vent fans. One box fan in the window blowing out...and one box fan at the door blowing in. A nice cross wind keeps the brew shop cooler too.

It must work cuz I saw my neighbor last night and he said he can smell the coooking wort all the way in his kitchen when I'm brewing. :D
 

Bernie Brewer

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Agreed. And CO poisoning can happen in the house, too. Or anywhere there is a heat source that uses combustibles. One thing to note: one of the first signs of CO poisoning is a nasty, nasty headache.
 

abracadabra

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I have to disagree with Bernie that you have to have a "nasty" headache for it to be a sign of CO poisioning.

Just a headache could be a sign of CO poisioning. Even a mild headache!

But if you can afford a tank of LP gas you can afford a CO monitor. Don't count on a headache as an indicator.
 

Bernie Brewer

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No, no you misunderstand, or at least I didn't state it very well. A headache COULD be a sign of CO poisoning. I've had that experience several times in the winter on an enclosed jobsite. So if you are getting a headache, esp if you're like me and don't get them very often, couple that with the situation you might be in, then get outside right away. Sorry if I said that wrong.



EDIT: you don't necessarily get a headache with CO poisoning, but I always did..........
 

z987k

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according to the govt publication I have sitting here carbon monoxide poising is cumulative and symptoms include but are not limited to: headache, drowsiness, dizziness and loss of muscular power.

The thing with CO is it has a higher affinity to your blood (the hemoglobin right?)than O2 does. On top of that, once a CO molecule has attached to a cell, that cell is permanently incapacitated. Therefore after CO exposure your respiratory capacity will be lower until the cells are replaced.
 

Got Trub?

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drayman86 said:
Last week, my buddy and I experienced a pretty severe episode of CO poisoning while brewing in the garage. I became very light-headed, and he nearly most conciseness.
The effects haven't worn off...

All kidding aside this is a serious concern. CO is odorless and colorless and the signs/symptoms can be subtle and insidious until it is too late. Couple that with the propensity of homebrewers to hoist a few while brewing and the danger is clear.

If you are going to brew indoors then a CO monitor is essential. CO is heavier then air so cracking a window may not be sufficient. If you brew in your garage the best way to ventilate would be to raise the garage door up a foot or so. Alternatively BeerMuncher's approach with fans should be more then enough.

GT

When not brewing I'm an ER doc at a hospital with a Hyperbaric chamber where we treat CO poisoning all the time.
 

5 Is Not Enough

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RichBrewer said:
Now that sounds like a mandatory piece of equipment for anyone who brews in an enclosed area with a propane burner!
I think it should also be known that Natural Gas can produce Carbon Monoxide as well.
 

CollinsBrew

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I had this same experience before. I brew in my garage which is actually part of my basement. The first time, I got a nasty headache right towards the end of my brew session. At the time I just thought that I had gotten a migraine. Two weeks later I experienced the same headache after brewing with some feelings of nausea...then I knew for sure. I had this problem even though I had my garage door completely open and our side door propped open. To remedy the problem I placed a fan in the doorway blowing out and I made a concious effort not to stand over my brewpot for extended periods. I have had migraines before but these headaches were far worse than any migraine I've had before. LESSON LEARNED!!...the hard way.
 

JVD_X

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Got Trub? said:
CO is heavier then air
CO is heavier than air but not enough that it stays at the bottom when air is being mixed. Without proper ventilation, say a basement that isn't used, then the CO will quickly form at the floor. However, any movement in the room (even convection of air caused by the burner) will mix the CO in with the rest of the gases throughout the room.

Cracking the garage door may in fact not be enough.
 

Rhoobarb

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Great post on a serious subject. I had a CO detector in my garage in my old house where I brewed and will be getting one for the new house's garage, too. I spent one holiday season working part time for First Alert, helping out with answering their help line. That's their busiest time of year. I learned a thing or two in my short time there.

Carbon monoxide is the #1 cause of poisoning death in the US. It can be given off by home appliances or even a car in an attached garage. Most people that have an alarm go off think their alarm is defective when, in fact, they really do have a CO problem. 90% of the calls I got when I worked for FA were of that nature.

If you have a newer home, you're even at more risk because most newer houses are built better than they used to be. With better insulation, more precisely made doors and windows and better construction methods in general, homes have less leaks than they did 20-30 years ago. That's great for your energy bills, but leaves any trace of CO trapped in your home.

If you brew in a basement, garage or any enclosed or even semi-enclosed area, a detector is a must. It's damn cheap insurance, especially now that they are much more accurate today than they were just five years ago.

And a big word of advice. Make sure and get a detector with a battery back up. There are a couple of cheap models still on the market that only run on the AC in your house. If you have a power outage, those detectors are rendered useless.
 

Boerderij_Kabouter

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Could someone more knowledgeable than I recommend a good place to purchase a CO monitor. Are they a dime a dozen, or are there better and worse models out there? Is this a HD or Lowe's run, or should I be ordering online?

Thanks
 

Philip1993

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Rhoobarb said:
Great post on a serious subject. I had a CO detector in my garage in my old house where I brewed and will be getting one for the new house's garage, too. I spent one holiday season working part time for First Alert, helping out with answering their help line. That's their busiest time of year. I learned a thing or two in my short time there.
IIRC, the sensors in CO detectors depleted by use. Can you confirm or deny?

If so, a CO unit might last a lifetime in a house, but need to be replaced much sooner in a higher-CO environment like a brewery.
 

nicksteck

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I'm in the heating trade and deal with co on a weekly basis, knighthawk detectors are the best store bought detector, the first alerts false trip and then people don't listen to them when the have a real problem. also get the model that gives you a reading and that plugs in, if your power goes out you will not be brewing.

Nick
 

Homercidal

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A firend and his family nearly died of CO poisoning a couple of years ago. Fate brought his son home frome work in time to drag them outside before it was too late. Luckily none of them went unconcious, but they were very incoherent and def would not have thought about CO poisoning in time to save themselves.

CO detectors are worth having around.
 

Lucky Dog Brewing

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I'm thinking about setting up a All Grain rig, and I was going to do propane outside like most. But, I was wondering if I did it in the basement which is where all my brewing equipment and storage and everything is, could I do it with natural gas? Just like a stove, but use the jet burners and everything like propane set up. Would I have to worry about fumes and Carbon Poisoning ?
 
OP
D

drayman86

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Bernie Brewer said:
One thing to note: one of the first signs of CO poisoning is a nasty, nasty headache.
Sometimes, but not always. I've experienced CO before that caused a headache, but this last time it presented as lightheaded/dizzy. Symptoms appear to be related to source and amount of CO in the air.
 

boothbrew

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I brew in my basement and have a co monitor right by my brew area; however, I don't have the best ventilation down there.
I'm going to get something going before my next brew after reading this thread.
 

max4677

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I'm definitely going to look into putting in a vent hood in my brewery in the new house.

Aren't CO monitors required by code now (at least near bedrooms)? From what I understand you don't want them too close to a ignition source or else they may false alarm too soon.
 

JoePolvino

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boothbrew said:
I brew in my basement and have a co monitor right by my brew area
Same here. I keep a CO detector, fire extinguisher, and a cordless phone nearby. Take a look at my
around 3:58 to see the fan panel I made that fits in my basement walkout door frame.

Even in a garage with the door open, I'd suggest opening a window and using a fan to move fresh air in.
 
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Loweface

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z987k said:
Co != Co2 ............
CO is Carbon Monoxide formed mainly by the incomplete combustion of fuels. In the above example from dirty burner and a stiffled flame...

CO2 is Carbon Dioxide formed from the complete combustion of all fossil fuels be it propane or natural gas or even biofuels. It too is dangerous. Technically it is toxic but we can exhale it so it's danger is that it displaces the oxygen from the air (normal O2 count in air is only about 21% by volume) we breath. If the O2 concentration falls we see similar effects to CO poisoning... See http://siri.uvm.edu/ppt/confspc1/sld011.htm
 

BG73395

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We rent our home in Colorado,, it is an older place. We have an older stove in here and the property management company put a Carbon monoxide detector in our small living room(near the kitchen). Last year SWMBO made me dinner for my birthday and the detector went crazy. We called the fire depatment and sure enough the levels where high in the house. The stove wasnt set properly for high altitude( we live at 8800 ft above sea level) ...after that I will always have one in the house.
 

calpyro

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I work as a fireman and I know first hand the effects of CO. I have been subjected to CO throughout my 25 year career and I have become sensitized to the cumulative exposures. In short, the more that I have been exposed, the more sensitive I have become. Now after 25 years, simply walking into a room with CO will cause me to become almost immediately dizzy. Many people are subjecting themselves to levels of CO that will sensitize their bodies and will become, like me, ultra-sensitive.

Also at work, I perform fire inspections in a large commercial and industrial area that frequently uses propane and other heating gasses for supplemental heating. Out of curiosity, I bring our fire department CO monitor (very sophisticated six-gas monitor) to sample the atmosphere. Propane heaters, burners, un-vented furnaces and other gas devices all produce large amounts of CO. In the last year due to our monitoring, we have evacuated seven buildings during routine fire inspections due to dangerous levels of CO.

People seem to just not understand that these propane burners produce dangerous levels of CO.
When I get together with other home brewers and brew inside, I almost immediately feel the effects of CO. While I don't have access to my CO monitor, from experience I can tell that as soon as I get light-headed, the CO level is already at dangerous levels.

My advice is NEVER use a propane burner inside without large amounts of ventilation. A fan or window opening simply won't be adequate. The size of burners home brewers are using would require a commercial stove vent hood arrangement to keep up with the CO produced. If brewing in a garage, leave the door completely open. Brewing in a basement in my opinion is suicide. CO is heavier than air and will fill the basement with invisible poison gas. Children and pets can easily be overcome with CO that accumulates in low areas. A child playing on the floor, or a person sitting in a chair will unknowingly expose themselves to potentially deadly levels of CO.

This stuff is real. I and many of my coworkers have been hospitalized due to CO and most dead fire victims succumb first to CO. If you need to brew indoors, leave the garage door up and put on a coat if it is cold. Keeping yourself warm in a bath of CO is a losers game.
 

Stratotankard

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IIRC, the sensors in CO detectors depleted by use. Can you confirm or deny?

If so, a CO unit might last a lifetime in a house, but need to be replaced much sooner in a higher-CO environment like a brewery.
As I understand it, the electronic CO detectors deplete fairly slowly (7year replacement), but the little sticky color change disks go much faster (6 months)
The color change ones (often sold to pilots to monitor for exhaust getting into the cabins of small planes) are very inexpensive, but you have to look at them to know if somethings wrong. Not a problem in a small plane where you can stick it on the glare shield.

Terje
 

thebrewguy

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Great post!! I am going to add one to my euipment also!! I usually have 3 doors open when i brew!! I am adding a couple windows so i will put some fans in those also next time!!
Thanks for the post & all the info everybody!!
 

rico567

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"It can be given off by home appliances or even a car in an attached garage."

....which leads to one of my favorite cautions, which is the aforementioned garage. Attached garages are a "convenient menace," as far as I'm concerned, and I wouldn't buy a house with one. We tore down our old detached garage last year, and built a new one on a different foundation....50 feet from the house. People who are meticulous about what their kids eat & drink think nothing of having them sleep above an attached garage. Apart from the CO under discussion, where's the most dangerous stuff in the household generally stored? Think: gasoline, kerosene, thinners, solvents, pesticides, herbicides, propane cylinders, etc. Right the first time!
 

IanFrank211

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The Effects of Carbon Monoxide
CO

* 35 ppm (0.0035%) Headache and dizziness within six to eight hours of constant exposure
* 100 ppm (0.01%) Slight headache in two to three hours
* 200 ppm (0.02%) Slight headache within two to three hours
* 400 ppm (0.04%) Frontal headache within one to two hours
* 800 ppm (0.08%) Dizziness, nausea, and convulsions within 45 minutes. Insensible within two hours.
* 1,600 ppm (0.16%) Headache, dizziness, and nausea within 20 minutes. Death in less than two hours.
* 3,200 ppm (0.32%) Headache, dizziness and nausea in five to ten minutes. Death within 30 minutes.
* 6,400 ppm (0.64%) Headache and dizziness in one to two minutes. Death in less than 20 minutes.
* 12,800 ppm (1.28%) Unconsciousness after 2-3 breaths[citation needed]. Death in less than three minutes.
 

gxm

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I wanted to thank whoever decided to make this thread a sticky.

When testing my AG equipment the other day, I realized I could smell something (I know CO is odorless, but if I can smell combustion, I'm probably breathing CO too). I saw this thread, and realized I needed to put the burner next to the open door with a fan blowing out. A detector and a fire extinguisher are on my list for the next run to the hardware store.
 

kappclark

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Same here. I keep a CO detector, fire extinguisher, and a cordless phone nearby. Take a look at my brewing video around 3:58 to see the fan panel I made that fits in my basement walkout door frame.

Even in a garage with the door open, I'd suggest opening a window and using a fan to move fresh air in.
Joe - Nice video ... I bet your brew is just as nice (smile)

I am thinking abt brewing in basement, but want to be sure I have proper ventilation ... I think I can open 2 bulkhead doors and put a box fan blowing out the window near where the boilpot will be .. I think I will use electric for the HLT ..

Maybe just go all electric .. the CO poisoning issue is a lot bigger than I first thought ..
 
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