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Old 01-27-2015, 09:02 PM   #1
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CO detector question...

Had my boat inspected by a member of the Power Squadron. He recommended that I get my CO detector calibrated(?). In the Feb/March issue of Boat U.S. magazine there is an article on CO detectors: "The chances of an exhaust leak in a boat with diesel engines causing serious harm are low enough that having a CO detector is not part of the ABYC standards for such boats." No propane on board, ergo, I do not need a CO detector?
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Old 01-27-2015, 09:08 PM   #2
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I've never heard of calibrating a CO detector. I thought they just get replaced after their drop-dead date printed on the back panel.
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Old 01-27-2015, 09:12 PM   #3
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The mechanic servicing my previous diesel boat spotted an exhaust leak at the turbo, only because a shaft of sunlight caught it rising. He is an experienced ex Navy/subs man, and was immediately concerned, warning that children are especially susceptible to C02. Based on his advice, take care.
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Old 01-27-2015, 09:12 PM   #4
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Had my boat inspected by a member of the Power Squadron. He recommended that I get my CO detector calibrated(?). In the Feb/March issue of Boat U.S. magazine there is an article on CO detectors: "The chances of an exhaust leak in a boat with diesel engines causing serious harm are low enough that having a CO detector is not part of the ABYC standards for such boats." No propane on board, ergo, I do not need a CO detector?
May want to ask him how you go about calibrating a CO detector....I am curious....
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Old 01-27-2015, 09:34 PM   #5
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I recently installed a Kiddie CO detector as I think I had previously been sickened by low-level CO.(I do have propane) It's only a $25 unit, but the next level up was over $100.

It has not registered on my boat usage, but this weekend it showed a peak reading when I got to the boat of 17ppm. Both of my neighbors are twin gassers and I suspect that is where the CO came from as they had been running their engines in their slips, including gensets.

Don't know how accurate this low-cost monitor is, but it does give me some peace of mind that it has an LCD that gives some kind of relative CO reading. I mounted it amidships above the stairway to the forward V-berth. Thought I had a picture, but could not find it. Actually, rather looks like it belongs there with the other pilot station instruments and is easy to see and monitor. Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend....
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Old 01-27-2015, 10:29 PM   #6
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We have diesel and no propane.

We have CO and smoke detectors. These were purchases at Home Depot, just like the ones at my dirt house.

If you do a search you will find it very difficult to locate a confirmed case of a CO poisoning death from diesel.
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Old 01-27-2015, 10:31 PM   #7
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May want to ask him how you go about calibrating a CO detector....I am curious....
I'm really curious too. On lab type equipment you use a canister of reference gas with a known concentration of CO, then adjust the readout until it matches the reference. I have never seen a boat CO detector with that capability. Usually they get torn out and replaced when the sensor reaches its expected life expectancy. I imagine most people would have a hard time even buying a reference cylinder.

Diesels can put out surprisingly little CO. I once tried to demo a detector by holding it in an exhaust stream. Didn't work, further testing showed the detector working properly.
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Old 01-27-2015, 10:39 PM   #8
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Only time I've had a CO alarm, was when downwind of a gas generator on another boat.
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Old 01-28-2015, 07:28 AM   #9
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Not to knock the Power Squadron, but even the best organizations can have misinformed but self-confident members. Or even idiots.

But the reason I'm posting is that you may not want to buy a "dirt" CO alarm for a boat. I've read that they are set to alarm immediately at a very low concentration. Marine units are supposed to use some sort of averaging over time to reduce false alarms.

I can confirm that the one I bought at a big-box store gave frequent false alarms, even with no engines running anywhere near the boat. It may be because I was working aboard in the winter. Perhaps they're not made to work in the cold, or maybe condensation on internal parts caused the problem.
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Old 01-28-2015, 07:39 AM   #10
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I never heard of calibrating one either...However 2 years ago I was required by BOATUS insurance to get a "free" survey and one result was I was required to install one to keep my insurance.
So I bought one at Home Depot and installed it.
Never got a false alarm in 2 seasons.

They also have a lifespan. I had to replace one in my house in October because it was 7 years old. It wouldn't stop chirping even with new batteries. Then I read the fine print. It was done. Some are 5 years.
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Old 01-28-2015, 11:39 PM   #11
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I installed an inexpensive CO detector in the V-berth about 4 yrs ago with the intention of replacement every 5 yrs. which is ahead of the Kidde schedule 7 and now 10 yrs] simply to be on the safe side. It usually just blinks at us.

We have a diesel boat and a diesel stove for heat but I thought just in case.

Last year it screamed. I had the boat closed up , it was COLD, and had used the little alcohol Origo stove for , i guess, too long and it reacted. So they do work and it alerted me to a developing problem. We opened the door, hatch and windows to clear the cabin and it settled down.

Just because the boat is not gasoline does not mean a problem cannot occur.
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Old 01-29-2015, 01:22 AM   #12
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Dirt CO detectors are not for marine use. If you want one for the boat, buy a proper one.
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Old 01-29-2015, 07:53 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Delta_JimS View Post
I recently installed a Kiddie CO detector as I think I had previously been sickened by low-level CO.(I do have propane) It's only a $25 unit, but the next level up was over $100.

It has not registered on my boat usage, but this weekend it showed a peak reading when I got to the boat of 17ppm. Both of my neighbors are twin gassers and I suspect that is where the CO came from as they had been running their engines in their slips, including gensets.

Don't know how accurate this low-cost monitor is, but it does give me some peace of mind that it has an LCD that gives some kind of relative CO reading. I mounted it amidships above the stairway to the forward V-berth. Thought I had a picture, but could not find it. Actually, rather looks like it belongs there with the other pilot station instruments and is easy to see and monitor. Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend....

I've never thought of that possibility- but it's just another reason to have one.


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Old 01-29-2015, 08:25 AM   #14
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Dirt CO detectors are not for marine use. If you want one for the boat, buy a proper one.
Is there a link or place that supportive info is available?

Anyone have ABYC info that rules out general alarms and has specific requirements of "marine" ones?

....not sure I have ever read an official report that said they were unacceptable...especially on boats not even required to have them.

From personal experience...they work just fine and seem to work just as well as the expensive marine wired in ones.
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Old 01-29-2015, 08:40 AM   #15
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From what I saw the way it calculates the various ppm levels is a little different. I think it averages over a greater time which means a HD model may alarm more often.
The European spec is also different.
I know when the surveyor I had told me I had to get one, he recommended a typical HD type. Said that would meet the insurance requirement.
Not that he was the sharpest surveyor in the box, but it is what he said.
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Old 01-29-2015, 08:48 AM   #16
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From what I saw the way it calculates the various ppm levels is a little different. I think it averages over a greater time which means a HD model may alarm more often.
The European spec is also different.
I know when the surveyor I had told me I had to get one, he recommended a typical HD type. Said that would meet the insurance requirement.
Not that he was the sharpest surveyor in the box, but it is what he said.
that is all my understanding too.

for a gas boat that my get too many false alarms...a marine one may be better than a dirt one without a battery because of the false alarms....

but till it was an issue...I haven't seen it as an issue to use a specific kind/brand/power source.

I am curious though if a requirement has popped up...seems every day someone is changing my life ....makes me feel less safe than when I was a crazy 20 something....
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Old 01-29-2015, 11:16 AM   #17
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hmason - why is a "dirt CO monitor" inappropriate for boats? CO is CO. A "proper" monitor sounds like code for "pay 6 X the going price" for the magic UL label. The UL 1524 standard seems to be all about hard wired installation requirements - not sensor performance.

Reminds me of when I flew (and wrenched) light planes in the deep boonies. Amazing how many parts were sitting on the shelf at the local auto parts store that were "identical" to the unavailable in less than a week TSO'd piece. And, at 20% the cost of the TSO'd part.

Obviously, discretion (and the base knowledge to apply that discretion) is required.

The highly touted concept that diesels present no CO risk is BS, as well. Diesels present a substantially lower risk of CO generation when compared to gas engines. However, that performance has much to do with state of tune and equipment. I know, from industrial experience, that it is not unusual to see 1,000 - 2,000 ppm CO in diesel exhaust. Without effective ventilation, that concentration can put people into nausea, dizzines, headache symptoms and even fatalities within 30-60 minutes.

I have six distributed about the boat, all Kidde "dirt" models, I think $20 a pop, they last 5 years (my schedule to account for effects of humid environment on sensor - think they're supposed to be good for 7-8). Periodically "calibrate" them by walking out to the parking lot and seeing if they squawk downwind of my truck's exhaust. Amortized cost - $2/month.
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Old 01-29-2015, 11:19 AM   #18
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And, zero problems with spurious alarms - each time they've activated, there's been a reason. 2 instances in close to 4 years that I can recall.
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Old 01-29-2015, 11:28 AM   #19
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hmason - why is a "dirt CO monitor" inappropriate for boats? CO is CO. A "proper" monitor sounds like code for "pay 6 X the going price" for the magic UL label. The UL 1524 standard seems to be all about hard wired installation requirements - not sensor performance.

Reminds me of when I flew (and wrenched) light planes in the deep boonies. Amazing how many parts were sitting on the shelf at the local auto parts store that were "identical" to the unavailable in less than a week TSO'd piece. And, at 20% the cost of the TSO'd part.

Obviously, discretion (and the base knowledge to apply that discretion) is required.

The highly touted concept that diesels present no CO risk is BS, as well. Diesels present a substantially lower risk of CO generation when compared to gas engines. However, that performance has much to do with state of tune and equipment. I know, from industrial experience, that it is not unusual to see 1,000 - 2,000 ppm CO in diesel exhaust. Without effective ventilation, that concentration can put people into nausea, dizzines, headache symptoms and even fatalities within 30-60 minutes.

I have six distributed about the boat, all Kidde "dirt" models, I think $20 a pop, they last 5 years (my schedule to account for effects of humid environment on sensor - think they're supposed to be good for 7-8). Periodically "calibrate" them by walking out to the parking lot and seeing if they squawk downwind of my truck's exhaust. Amortized cost - $2/month.

I liked your post, but in my research I have found it very difficult to find any reported deaths from CO with diesel as the source. I'm not saying impossible only because I could be proven wrong.

If diesel is dangerous, just how many people died in the last decade from CO poisoning sourced from diesel fuel?
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Old 01-29-2015, 12:17 PM   #20
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I liked your post, but in my research I have found it very difficult to find any reported deaths from CO with diesel as the source. I'm not saying impossible only because I could be proven wrong.

If diesel is dangerous, just how many people died in the last decade from CO poisoning sourced from diesel fuel?
I don't know that but I did find some articles of people who died from CO due to a faulty oil furnace. The ones I read were all due to a faulty air heat exchanger that was blowing fumes into the house.
Most of the deaths were from either natural gas or propane furnaces.
So I guess from that I would say that it's a possibility.
Don't forget that one of the effects of CO poisoning is MENTAL CONFUSION.
We may all be sucking in too many fumes!!
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