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Carbon Monoxide Alarms Sounding…


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We opened up Mystic Lady this morning after a few days away to find the CO alarm in the fore cabin was going off. There were three CO alarms fitted to the boat when we purchased her earlier this year and all appeared to be working when tested.

All had a date of manufacture in 2017 so we decided to replace all of them, just in case they were reaching the end of their useful lifespans, and we how have a digital sealed unit for our main sleeping cabin (mid cabin), one in the salon, one in the fore cabin and one in the rear cockpit, above the engine bay. 
 

This evening, the alarm in the mid cabin went off, followed by the one in the salon. We immediately vented the boat by opening windows and the door to the cockpit, the digital alarm was showing 36ppm but has dropped to normal now. The curious thing is we haven’t used any pathing that could be responsible for producing CO. We do not have gas on the boat, the oven & hob are electric and we haven’t used the diesel heating for a week. We haven’t fired the engines up since they were serviced last week. I wonder if our neighbours have had their diesel heating on and the exhaust fumes have been drawn into our boat…

The digital alarm is now in the main salon and it’s showing a slowly increasing value of 17 - 19ppm… very worrying as we can’t determine where the source of CO is

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It’s been blustery all day but has calmed somewhat now. We are moored at the western end of the western basin at Cove with a shed to our stern so the wind tends to swirl around and push us to starboard.

We’ve had nothing running today that would generate CO. To port beyond the finger quay there’s a Broom 30 and we haven’t seen its owner since the weekend. To starboard is a boat which I suspect has had its blown air heating on earlier this evening, and probably also this morning as the owner and partner are in residence (I believe they live aboard). This could be why the CO alarm in our fore cabin was sounding when we arrived this morning.

we’ve ventilated the boat and it’s now cold but CO levels are lower (12 - 13ppm). It’s going to be along night…

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I raised this point many years ago. What should one do if the Co alarm sounds for no apparent reason? I never did get a sensible answer. All I could come up with was "ignore it ".

I have been lead to believe that the propellant from aerosols can be a culprit so ask if your good lady has been busy with the Pledge ( not a problem on my boat ) fly killer or air freshener?

I think the main problem is that if this happens too frequently   these alarms will be treated like car alarms, always ignored.

How many times do we hear of batteries being removed from smoke detectors? How often have you witnessed anyone investigating a car alarm other than to see which car it is? 

No! Sad to say that "Wolf" has been called too often now, and alarms no longer alarm anybody.

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21 minutes ago, MauriceMynah said:

I have been lead to believe that the propellant from aerosols can be a culprit

I think you are talking here about the effect of hairsprays, etc., on gas detectors, since the propellant for aerosol sprays is actually butane gas.

It is perfectly possible that the fumes from the exhaust of a diesel heater have found their way in through the windows.  I have often been suspicious that their fumes, on a stern-on mooring, are a lot more pollutant than a diesel engine running but no-one seems to bother about them.

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Only a thought I have seen covers or items on decks covering the vents.

Another thing that you could try is turning on the bilge blower and see if this reduces the volume. Might give you a clue as to source..

I think a gas cooker can do it.

Certainly a head scratcher when you have nothing running. 

Regards Marge and Parge 

Edited by MargeandParge
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This happened to us in the early hours of one night last Summer. Our first thought was that the alarm was malfunctionioning. but an hour later the other alarm also went off. It turned out to be fumes coming from a  faiing battery.

 

Carole

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2 minutes ago, addicted said:

This happened to us in the early hours of one night last Summer. Our first thought was that the alarm was malfunctionioning. but an hour later the other alarm also went off. It turned out to be fumes coming from a  faiing battery.

 

Carole

 

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We’ll have the batteries checked, they seem to be performing ok but we have little idea of when they were installed and what their performance was prior to us purchasing the boat. 
All alarms have been “normal” since 12.30am, the digital alarm in the mid cabin is reading “all clear”. I’m waiting for our neighbour to awake, to see if he has his heating on. 
There is an engine bay vent and another through hull fitting on his boat close to our mid cabin porthole, no idea if his diesel heater exhausts on this side of his boat…

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I’ve had the same thing on my Bayliner, the sun on the fibreglass superstructure can also raise the levels inside the boat.

always best to ventilate to prevent the buildup.

I would treat any alarm as real until you prove otherwise. My boat has three fitted alarms and I have a small unit that I place near the main cabin as a secondary check.

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We had this happen the other week. Arrived at the boat to find both CO alarms sounding off. Changed the batteries on the alarms and the problem seemed to go away, only to have it start again that evening. Eventually traced the problem to our engine starter battery, which is separate from the main battery bank, which was being boiled dry by the "intelligent" charging system. Replaced said battery and the problem went away. Aparrently CO alarms sense several things other than carbon monoxide, including fumes from dying batteries.

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On 03/06/2023 at 06:50, MauriceMynah said:

I raised this point many years ago. What should one do if the Co alarm sounds for no apparent reason? I never did get a sensible answer. All I could come up with was "ignore it ".

Don't go down that road - it can cost you your life...

On 03/06/2023 at 15:38, Tobster said:

I would treat any alarm as real until you prove otherwise. My boat has three fitted alarms and I have a small unit that I place near the main cabin as a secondary check.

This policy would have saved at least 2 lives some time back.

Its been my pleasure to have visited the offices of the German Air Accident Investigation folks (BFU) in Braunschweig a few times, along with a group from my flying club - a former club member is one of the accident investigators.  Following a lecture which included in-detail analysis of a particular crash (such as AF447) we would be led into the "wreck-hall" where the sad remains of numerous types of aircraft from airliner to hot air ballons were resting.

One particular heap of metal was caused by CO poisoning due to the heat-exchanger corroding & letting exhaust gasses into the cockpit.  The tragic thing was, the owner had perviously had an electronic CO-detector fitted but had it removed "because it was always sounding alarm".

 

 

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