Fun with carbon monoxide

I wasn’t going to write about this but then thought: what is northern life without an occasional carbon monoxide scare?

So: I’d been noticing that Adam and I were feeling slightly sick every weekend. Not real sick, but tired, headache-y, lightheaded — a general malaise. And last weekend it was even worse: Saturday I just couldn’t shake it off, and Sunday Adam went back to sleep at 9:30 a.m. and didn’t wake up until I checked on him at 2:30. He slept most of the rest of the day and by the time I was crawling into bed at night I starting thinking about carbon monoxide.

In case you’re not familiar, carbon monoxide is something that is admitted from gas-burning appliances (like your furnace, stove, or dryer) in low levels, unless that appliance is malfunctioning, in which case it can slowly or quickly start releasing levels that can make you feel sick or even kill you. Carbon monoxide poisoning is more common in the winter, since houses are closed up and furnaces are working hard to heat your home.

So I woke Adam up and he reminded me that in some fit of forgotten nesting I’d ask him to take care of the carbon monoxide detector thing, and he’d bought and installed two monitors. I went checked on them and sure enough, then were emitting their reassuring “inspecting” lights. I felt better enough to fall asleep (and tried to reassure myself that hey, the cats were OK), but I wasn’t totally convinced.

On Monday I decided after a lot of heming and hawing that maybe I should just call the energy company and see what they had to say, thinking that they’d probably reassure me everything was fine. And indeed, the guy on the phone was really assuring. We chatted as he took down my basic info, real casual like, and then he said, “Well, we’ll have a crew out to your house in a few minutes.”

To which I replied, “Um, we’re at work?” Oh. He calmly assured me that the guys would shut off the gas supply to the house from the exterior and then when we got home, we could call back and they’ll send someone else out again to check it and then turn it back on. “Are you sure?” I asked. “Because I don’t want to be in a cold house all night with a baby.”

The last time we spent the night with no heat due to furnace malfunction resulted in this temperature right before the guys arrived to fix it.

He assured me it’s totally fine – no worries.

A half an hour later I get a call from the repair guy, who’s at my house. He tells me they have to enter immediately, and if that can’t happen they’ll call the fire department to break down the door. “We have a hidden key and a security system and I can tell you how to get into the house, but I’m sure you don’t do that,” I say.  He tells me it’s no problem and listens to my brief instructions once and hangs up.

Visions of police arriving at my house after his botched break-in attempt fill my head.

Fifteen minutes later he calls back and says the house is fine, everything is emitting at the typical low safe levels, and we’re good to go.


It does feel great now, having that assurance that every appliance is doing what it should. But next time I’ll know what I’m getting into before I whisper the words “carbon monoxide” to my energy company.

P.S. from Jen

I called 911 last fall because my carbon monoxide detector went off.

It was morning, early enough that we were in pjs. First I called the gas company. They said call the fire department. So I called the fire department non-emergency line (all of this from the backyard) because it didn’t seem like an emergency, really. They said to call 911.

Minutes later, two fire engines arrive, sirens blazing. (Remember, I’m still in my pjs.) Six hunky, probably-10-years-younger-than-me firefighters scan the house. They find nothing, but the detector is still ringing.

So they changed the batteries. Detector = quiet. Me = mortified.

They were super nice about it and suggested a better model of detector that actually has a readout that says “replace batteries” instead of just going off. They invited the boys to climb on the fire engine, so now I am standing on the sidewalk with hunky firefighters while they entertain my boys.

In my pjs. Awesome.


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