Josh Drake, DTE Energy gas service technician in Grand Rapids, answered a local service call this past spring from a customer who smelled something unusual when she operated her oven.
The call was classified as a gas leak, but Drake knew that might not necessarily be the case.
“We may find that the smell could be a dead rodent in a wall, so you never know what the source is until you investigate,” explained Drake. “Half our job is being a scent detective.”
Drake checked for natural gas leaks, but did not get any positive readings on his detection device. When he examined the oven, he noted that the top of the appliance was very hot, even though it had not been used for a while.
“That was an indication that the oven was not working properly, so I took a CO reading,” said Drake. “Low levels of CO were present in the oven area of the kitchen, which should not have been the case.”
He then turned on the oven. Within two minutes, the level of CO reached 100 parts per million (ppm).
“CO is odorless, so the customer was smelling some other part of the oven as it was heating up,” Drake said. “Regardless, her call led to the discovery of a CO problem that could have been very dangerous. She planned to bake all afternoon. Exposure to 100 ppm over a prolonged period of time could have been fatal. She’s lucky she made the call.”
Drake shut off gas to the oven and rendered it inoperable while the customer made arrangements to repair or replace the appliance. He did not see a CO alarm in the house, which could have detected the problem much earlier.
DTE recommends carbon monoxide alarms on a wall or ceiling near all sleeping areas in your home to identify the odorless, colorless and tasteless gas. For businesses, install the alarms in main areas away from vents as well appliances or equipment that produce smoke or steam.
It is also important to follow the manufacturer’s recommendation for replacing the alarm.