We became involved with carbon monoxide (CO) testing and repair (at least the part where we understood its cause, symptoms, and repair) around 14 years ago after a series of conversations with Dominick Guarino and Jim Davis of National Comfort Institute (NCI). During those conversations, I learned that I really didn’t know anything about CO – how it was produced, what caused it, or how to fix it.

Steve Miles

When it came to CO, we were operating not knowing what we didn’t know. We used industry anecdotes like cracked heat exchangers as the likely culprit creating CO. We also believed that if the flame burned blue it burned clean. If it burned orange, it burned dirty.

I decided that, as a company, we needed to really understand it. It is in the best interest of our customers as well as our technicians. Let’s face it, gas appliances themselves are fairly safe – they’ve been around for more than a hundred years and manufacturers know how to build safe equipment. But anytime combustion is involved, other factors can come into play that can create dangerous situations. When things go wrong, they go wrong in a catastrophic way. As contractors, we must prevent that from happening at all costs.

Become Educated

During my conversations with NCI, I learned about classes on the combustion process and CO safety that Jim Davis taught all across the country. I decided our first step to becoming knowledgeable was through education.

So we contracted with NCI to bring Jim Davis into our company. At the time we had 8 to 12 technicians, so Jim provided a two-day training class just for our people.

Carbon monoxide molecule. Oxygen – red, carbon – black

During that class, which we held in our training room, Davis hooked up his combustion analyzer to our test furnaces and we watched as the CO levels just climbed and climbed. It went exponential on us.

He told us he believed the cause was a dirty inducer motor. Everyone in the room was aghast in disbelief. So we opened the unit up and found the inducer motor was full of rust.

This was a furnace that we serviced regularly, kept clean. How could this happen without our knowing about it? Jim Davis’ class showed us.
Would we have otherwise known this was happening? Not without the help of a combustion analyzer, the knowledge of where to place it, and the ability to interpret what its readings meant.

That is one way we learned that everything we thought we knew was mostly wrong. We also learned what really caused CO issues and how to test and fix those issues. That got the team fired up to pursue certification and that is what we did.

Since that first class, 100% of our techs are certified in combustion safety and CO through NCI. We have them on a two-year rotation for renewing those certifications. We also established an annual schedule for NCI to come in and exclusively train our field team for refreshers and recertification.

We are a company that believes in training and we budget for our guys to get all kinds of it. We do most training in-house but will send technicians to outside training to fill in the holes.

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