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Author Topic: CO Mystery???  (Read 3842 times)
rv_safetyman
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« on: July 21, 2010, 05:13:34 PM »

OK folks, strange situation.  I have a commercial CO detector in the bus that has gone off many times.  I assumed  Roll Eyes that it had a problem as my OLD battery operated detector showed no CO.  The old battery unit is a Nighthawk and it seems to test just fine.  I just looked at it and see that it was manufactured in Feb. of 1999!!!!

I got tired of carrying it back and forth between the bus and the house, so I got a new Kidde unit for the bus.  On our last trip it went off when we were at the Eagle Rally with nothing running.  I again assumed   Roll Eyes that it was defective.

When we got home, I got to playing with all three detectors in the bus.  The commercial unit and the new Kidde unit both showed high levels of CO.  The new Kidde read at least 180 PPM as I recall.  The old Nighthawk showed zero.  When I took the new Kidde outside it zeroed out.  When I had it in the house it read zero.  It appears to be working correctly.  No obvious source.

When I put it back in the bus with the windows open (and bus in the shop), it eventually sounded an alarm (as did the commercial unit).  Old Nighthawk showed zero.  Again NOTHING was running that would generate CO as far as I can tell.  Engine had not been run in 24 hours or more.  No combustion generating devices that I can think of.  Fridge is house 120V unit.  After I turn on the roof vent, the count goes down.

So, ****WHERE IS THE CO COMING FROM*****Huh??

Also, *******REPLACE ANY CO DETECTOR OVER 7 YEARS OLD (manufacturer recommendation)**********.  I could have had a bad situation if I had relied on the old unit.  Our house furnace is over 25 years old and I live in fear that it could go bad and flood the house.  I relied on the OLD detector to protect us Angry Angry Angry

This really has me freaked out.

Jim
« Last Edit: July 21, 2010, 05:23:11 PM by rv_safetyman » Logged

Jim Shepherd
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’85 Eagle 10/Series 60/Eaton AutoShift 10 speed transmission
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« Reply #1 on: July 21, 2010, 05:16:44 PM »

Jim,
  Just a guess, but maybe there is another gas that the dectector "thinks" is CO?  Jack
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« Reply #2 on: July 21, 2010, 05:28:12 PM »

Jack, I was revising my post as you posted. 

I also think that both of the GOOD detectors are seeing something other than CO.  The question is what.  My super sniffer (Pat) is at a convention.  However, when the detector went off at the rally, she did not smell anything, and we did not have any symptoms. The alarm was in the middle of the night and none of the neighbors had anything running.  As I recall, we had the windows open, but the roof vent fan was not running.

Propane detectors pick up lots of gases (don't put the cat litter box in front of one Grin), but I don't know about CO and how they work.

Jim
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Jim Shepherd
Evergreen, CO
’85 Eagle 10/Series 60/Eaton AutoShift 10 speed transmission
Somewhere between a tin tent and a finished product
Bus Project details: http://beltguy.com/Bus_Project/busproject.htm
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« Reply #3 on: July 21, 2010, 05:31:12 PM »

do you have a propane ice box?
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« Reply #4 on: July 21, 2010, 06:13:26 PM »

Bob, no propane on board.  Fridge is 120 house type, so no ammonia either.

Jim
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Jim Shepherd
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’85 Eagle 10/Series 60/Eaton AutoShift 10 speed transmission
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« Reply #5 on: July 21, 2010, 06:38:19 PM »

Why not call Kidde tech support and ask them what else would trigger the alarm.  You can't be the first one with an issue.  I have found manufacturer's tech support to be a great resource for lots of things.
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« Reply #6 on: July 21, 2010, 06:40:01 PM »

Didn't Craig Shephard or someone have an issue with battery outgassing causing the CO alarm to go off?
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« Reply #7 on: July 21, 2010, 06:43:32 PM »

sorry I didn't read post well on  elect fridge...some things that ran thru my mind...new carpet----household cleaner leaking----plug in odor things----some supplies you carry for work------solovents
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« Reply #8 on: July 21, 2010, 06:44:46 PM »

Our propane detector goes off from 409 and other household cleaners
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« Reply #9 on: July 21, 2010, 08:06:16 PM »

Jim,

The 120-VAC units generally use MOS detectors, which are sensitive to a variety of gasses, including chlorine, bromine, and silicone vapors.  An open bottle of bleach will set them off.

Battery-powered units generally use biomimetic sensors.  These are sensitive to a narrower range of gasses.  Their downside is that once they go off, they need to be left out in fresh air for a long time for the biomimetic disk to change color back to normal.

I would expect different readings from MOS vs. biomimetic detectors.  That does not indicate a problem, just different operating modes.

I am guessing the two agreeing detectors are MOS and the disagreeing one is biomimetic.  If so, check for sources of other gasses such as bleach, or formaldehyde (new carpet, etc.).

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« Reply #10 on: July 21, 2010, 08:11:12 PM »

Didn't Craig Shephard or someone have an issue with battery outgassing causing the CO alarm to go off?

Yep, near as I can figure, by CO detector (RV unit) goes off when I charge batteries. Or maybe outgassing from by rigid insulation. Or maybe methane from the black tank as my vents were not working
right the last time I actually plugged it in and it went off.

I put a Nighthawk in to see if it was seeing anything, and it definitely was registering something, like you say. It went off in the middle of the night and my neighbor two doors down heard it.
The batteries were on float. I finally decided the CO levels were corresponding with the charging of the batteries. Note that my batteries are in plastic boxes, but they are not vented outside. I've
been looking for some way to add a power vent to the batteries that can't produce a spark. Maybe a bilge blower.

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« Reply #11 on: July 22, 2010, 06:12:54 AM »

Thanks for all the input so far.  

The so called "commercial" unit is a 12V wall mounted unit described at: http://www.teknosisltd.com/content/urun/yangin_algilama/01_telefire/07_ghd_2000/GHD2010N.pdf  I installed this unit as a part of an intrusion alarm system I used to sell.  It has a set of contacts that can be wired to a transmitter for the alarm system.  I never hooked it up to the alarm system, so it is self-standing and is hooked up to the 12V house system.

When the detectors went off, the batteries were on float.  That would suggest they would not be generating much gas.  I have them enclosed in a fabricated box that is vented outside the bus.  I think it is pretty air tight.

I have not installed anything new in the bus in the last two years that would out-gas anything that would set off the alarm.  Carpet is 4 years old as is most of the upholstery.    

We do not get an alarm going down the road, so I don't think there is any engine exhaust issue.  Having said that, we did have an exhaust pipe come loose in the engine compartment on the last trip.  I am sure there was exhaust in the compartment, but it is pretty well sealed up and we did not get an alarm while driving or while parked shortly after we parked.

I need to point out the the 12V detector has gone off many times over the past few years.  This is not a recent event.  I had relegated to being a "defective" unit, but now I am pretty sure it is reporting correctly.  The report event for this unit seems to be when parked for long periods with no obvious reason for the report (that is why I questioned the result)

We ran our generator quite a bit during our last two trips while parked, and did not get an alarm.

I have not run the Aquahot on diesel in quite some time.

I brought both of the battery units in the house yesterday and just took them back to the bus a few minutes ago.  I closed up the bus.  I will report the results later today.

I poked around with Google yesterday and did not see anything that would shed light on this situation.  I did find some reports of older units giving false reports.  In my case, the old unit does not give any report of CO, while the other two do report problems.  I will probably buy another battery unit in the next few days and see what it reports.

Jim
« Last Edit: July 22, 2010, 12:55:50 PM by rv_safetyman » Logged

Jim Shepherd
Evergreen, CO
’85 Eagle 10/Series 60/Eaton AutoShift 10 speed transmission
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« Reply #12 on: July 22, 2010, 06:19:16 AM »

Sewer gases will set the alarm off also 


good luck
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« Reply #13 on: July 22, 2010, 06:31:55 AM »

Clifford, thanks for the reminder.  We have a washer dryer in the bus and the "P" trap goes dry once in a while.  I have plumbed in a small tube to the drain that I can run water to get the seal going.  I will go run the water now to make sure the trap is wet. 

When I talked about Pat's sensitive smell test, I obviously did not mean that she could detect CO.  CO has no smell.  What I was referring to was whether she could smell anything that might set the detectors off.

While I was doing my searching, I ran across a very interesting site:  http://www.avweb.com/news/aeromed/186016-1.html.  Has good information, and is also very scary if you are a pilot.

Jim
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Jim Shepherd
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« Reply #14 on: July 22, 2010, 06:57:10 AM »

In the half hour since I took the units out this morning and closed up the bus, the CO level went to 77 as measured by the new battery unit.  Both it and the 12V unit were sounding an alarm.  The old unit reported zero (am sure it is dead).

I opened the window and ran the roof vent fan for a few minute and the level quickly dropped to zero and both functioning detectors showed a good condition.

I had re-plumbed the washer drain for another application that I no longer use.  As a result, I was not "wetting" the P trap.  I put the plumbing back to the original configuration and ran the water until I could hear it running into the gray tank.

We will see what happens later today.

I am very concerned that the old unit would "fail" in a non protective fashion.  I would think the manufacturer should design the device to fail such that it reported a dangerous condition or give some other form of "fail" report.

Jim
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Jim Shepherd
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’85 Eagle 10/Series 60/Eaton AutoShift 10 speed transmission
Somewhere between a tin tent and a finished product
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« Reply #15 on: July 22, 2010, 07:11:09 AM »

I've had the experience and posted it on the BNO forum under the heading "just a tidbit of info".....It's my belief that Hydrogen can be seen by CO detectors. Our inverter has a desulfating mode once a month and this will set off the CO.
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« Reply #16 on: July 22, 2010, 08:43:06 AM »

My co detector alarms when battery bank is in equalize charge and sounded when My bank went into meltdown due to a shorted battery.  I am of the opinion it is not hydrogen but acid fumes, could be wrong but perhaps only the Shadow knows!  John L
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« Reply #17 on: July 22, 2010, 08:54:31 AM »

In the half hour since I took the units out this morning and closed up the bus, the CO level went to 77 as measured by the new battery unit.  Both it and the 12V unit were sounding an alarm.  The old unit reported zero (am sure it is dead).


Jim,

Consider doing another test where you unplug your batteries for a day (if possible), vent the coach, and then redo the test with the detectors. If you get nothing, then plug in the battery charger and see what happens. Since you have two detectors that you know will trip, it would be good to know what's tripping them and maybe by isolating each possible thing you can find out and report
back to us. I was not able to conclusively determine that it was my batteries, but it was very coincidental.

craig
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« Reply #18 on: July 22, 2010, 01:01:30 PM »

First of all, I have fixed the link in one of my posts.  Turns out that, as someone pointed out, I was putting a period at the end of what looked like a sentence, but it got included in the hyperlink.

I have run out of time to play, as my grandson and I are headed to Salina, KS tomorrow for a big car show.  I will not be able to take the '56 Chevy, but will still have fun Grin

I did go out and look at the detectors after a couple of hours with the bus closed up and they were fine.  I think that points the finger at a dry "P" trap for the washer.  As I mentioned, I thought I had shot some water in it a few days ago, but I had diverted that circuit to some work I was doing on the CAC mister.  I reconnected the line to the washer drain and ran it till I heard the water going in the gray tank.  It looks like that might be the answer.  I will play with it some more when I get back.

Jim
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Jim Shepherd
Evergreen, CO
’85 Eagle 10/Series 60/Eaton AutoShift 10 speed transmission
Somewhere between a tin tent and a finished product
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« Reply #19 on: July 22, 2010, 05:11:53 PM »

After poking around the net I found a list of gases that will set off a CO detector."Interfering gases of similar molecular size and chemical reactivity may produce false positive response. Major interferents that can affect CO detectors are acetylene, dimethyl sulfide, ethyl alcohol, ethylene,hydrogen cyanide, hydrogen sulfide, isopropyl alcohol, mercaptan, methyl alcohol, propane, nitrogen, and sulfur dioxide."..Found it on "fire Engineering"  forum.........s........
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Sometimes the more I think about something the less I think about something.    As soon as I save a little money my bus finds out.                                      Why grab a plane when you can take the bus ?                         If I'm wrong 10% of the time how can the "Queen" be right 100%
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« Reply #20 on: July 22, 2010, 05:32:51 PM »

safetyman, I didn't see methane on the list, although it still might not be the compleat list of all the gases to set off CO's. I too installed a new CO with the same results. Have you ever considered a nice parakeet or maybe a change in diet? 
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Sometimes the more I think about something the less I think about something.    As soon as I save a little money my bus finds out.                                      Why grab a plane when you can take the bus ?                         If I'm wrong 10% of the time how can the "Queen" be right 100%
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« Reply #21 on: July 22, 2010, 07:54:27 PM »

Steve, thanks for looking that up.  Sewer gas has hydrogen sulfide as a component as I recall.  I think that is what makes the gas smell so bad.  Funny I did not detect even a faint hit of sewer gas smell.  The detectors must be darn sensitive.  As I recall, "Super Sniffer" Grin did not smell anything when the system went off in Custer.

Now that you mention the chemicals, I recall having the the CO detector in the shop when I was spraying some paint and the solvent set it off.

I have a project on the drawing board for a customer that wants a better propane detector.  I was amazed at the technology and complexity of trying to get a direct reading from that type of detector.  I was also amazed at the range of gases that can be detected by one sensor.

Jim
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Jim Shepherd
Evergreen, CO
’85 Eagle 10/Series 60/Eaton AutoShift 10 speed transmission
Somewhere between a tin tent and a finished product
Bus Project details: http://beltguy.com/Bus_Project/busproject.htm
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« Reply #22 on: July 24, 2010, 12:02:01 PM »

jim,

I don't think any test going down the road is valid.  So many tiny points of air infiltration add up to a large hole and you get the interior air changed in short order.  I think you know that but there was a comment and some may not be as savvy as you.

You may have saved me from coming to a bad end.  My CO detector is AC powered and it is 10 years old. Hasn't been powered up more thn a year total over that time but is it still good?  I didn't see any caution statement about it having a life span but that prooves nothing.  My propane detector is also that old?? ?? ??

They say that the smoke detector bats need renewed every year but do they also have a lifespan? Am told that the smoke detectors are of two types....photo and ion.  The photo is labeled for my kitchen and bath and the other isn't specified.  Is one inherently better?

Thanks for the advice,

John
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« Reply #23 on: July 24, 2010, 04:47:03 PM »

Hey, I just thought of this.  My CO detector gives out a chirp when my furnace first lights.  Sound like a test to you?  It has always done that...since new.

John
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« Reply #24 on: July 24, 2010, 04:50:49 PM »

Can't you test the operablity of a CO sensor by simply putting pans on all the burners and lighting the gas.  Oven too.  That should produce small amts of CO and, if you remembered to put water in the pots first, do no damage.

John
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« Reply #25 on: July 27, 2010, 09:26:09 AM »

OK folks, back to testing.

It appears that the fellow who does not know how to spell Shepherd correctly Grin Cool (gumpy) was the winner.  It appears that there is some sort of issue with my battery bank/inverter.  I had my super sniffer (Pat) go out with me (alarms going off) and we traced it to the battery compartment and what I am pretty sure is the hydrogen sulfide battery gas.

I had filled my batteries about a month ago with distilled water (they were lower than they should have been, but certainly not close to dry - maybe 1/2 inch below the plates).  Yesterday, I looked at the batteries and two of them probably had only 50% of the liquid!  They had been on float for several days and those two batteries were pretty warm.  Charge rate seemed to be about 10 amps (net) per the Bogart Trimetric but I would think that is normal given the pretty heavy loads that can discharge the batteries a little bit - even in the float cycle.

I am in the process of equalizing the batteries now, but that process does not seem to be going smoothly.  I have started another thread on that subject.

BTW, the new battery CO detector and the 12V CO detector have tracked very well as I do things to open and close the bus interior and the bay doors to vent the gas.  The older battery detector just sits on zero!!!  I am really upset with the way it failed (non-protective mode).

Jim
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Jim Shepherd
Evergreen, CO
’85 Eagle 10/Series 60/Eaton AutoShift 10 speed transmission
Somewhere between a tin tent and a finished product
Bus Project details: http://beltguy.com/Bus_Project/busproject.htm
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« Reply #26 on: July 27, 2010, 10:31:29 AM »

Jim,

It sounds like this adventure has led you to preventing the premature failure of your bats.  I would still determine how the H got into the cabin  in the first place and plug that up.

I asked this question before and I don't think it was answered.  If you leave the bats connected to the coach, there is only a tiny load, and you leave the charger connected......will that small trickle load keep the charger OUT OF float mode and overcharge the bats?   Even maybe if the "trickle load" was as big as the max current the charger produced and the bats were fully charged.  Wouldn't the charger just stay at 14.5 volts and pump out the current the load needed?   Seems to  me....but that can't be worth much.

John
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« Reply #27 on: July 27, 2010, 12:05:43 PM »

The older battery detector just sits on zero!!!  I am really upset with the way it failed (non-protective mode).


When I was doing some Google searching on this the other day to see if I could find something to help on it, I did see a statement on a site a fire safety site (I think it was a UK site) that indicated that CO detectors have a limited life span and should be replaced every 3-5 years regardless of how well they test.
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« Reply #28 on: July 27, 2010, 01:16:03 PM »

John, my loads on my battery are often pretty substantial just sitting there.  I still have some computer items running, the house fridge (fairly large load) and other small stuff. 

The batteries are maintained by the Trace inverter which is a three stage charger.  If it is working properly, the batteries should not be overcharged.

I am concerned about why my batteries act as if they have been overcharged.  However, I will not tackle that until I get the batteries back in good conditon.

Mike, I have read the same thing on other sites (some say up to 7 years).  The two that I have are marked with the date of mfgr.  What really bothers me is the fact that they do not go bad in a mode that would let you know there is a problem.  I was not aware of the date limit, but I did do the test quite often and the results led me to believe it was working fine.

When I catch up on all of this posting, I am going to start another thread that talks about replacement.

As I said somewhere in this thread, I relied on that detector to protect us in the house with a 30 year old furnace!!!!!

Will be getting a couple of additional units in the next day or two when I get to town.

Jim
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Jim Shepherd
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’85 Eagle 10/Series 60/Eaton AutoShift 10 speed transmission
Somewhere between a tin tent and a finished product
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« Reply #29 on: July 27, 2010, 01:36:49 PM »

. . . .  I would still determine how the H got into the cabin  in the first place and plug that up. . . .

That would have to be some very good sealant since the hydrogen atoms are so small.  Shocked

My suggestion would be towards better ventilation (so as to diffuse it into a harmless part of the air) would be more effective. Cooler batteries last longer too.  Grin
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Jim Shepherd


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« Reply #30 on: August 02, 2010, 06:58:44 AM »

Been kind of busy, but thought I should update this thread.  I will also update the battery equalization thread as well.

As I started to work on my battery bank to see why two batteries lost fluid pretty quickly, I discovered one dead cell in one of the golf cart batteries (very low reading on the hydrometer). 

Apparently that set was dragging down the rest of the bank and the inverter was pumping a lot of current into the battery bank (my crude understanding).  In any case, I took that set of batteries out (now have 6 golf cart batteries in bank) and the CO detectors have not shown any issue since then.  The battery bank is now acting normal during the float cycle.

Now I have to do some research to see if I can salvage the one battery.  I think I will try using a good power supply when I can control the voltage to the proper voltage for a 6V battery and see if working on that specific battery will raise it from the dead.

Jim
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Jim Shepherd
Evergreen, CO
’85 Eagle 10/Series 60/Eaton AutoShift 10 speed transmission
Somewhere between a tin tent and a finished product
Bus Project details: http://beltguy.com/Bus_Project/busproject.htm
Blog:  http://rvsafetyman.blogspot.com/
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