Karen Needham

40+ year-old, 55% efficient boiler leaking significant amounts of Carbon Monoxide (CO2).

While chatting with a neighbor about the horrible ice dams on her 150-year-old Saint Paul home the previous winter, Karen Needham’s neighbor suggested she might look into a home energy audit to help pinpoint the trouble areas and find solutions. On her neighbor’s advice, she called Xcel Energy and scheduled a home energy audit with the Neighborhood Energy Connection (NEC).

Even though Karen was most concerned about her ice dam problem, the audit uncovered a more pressing health and safety issue. NEC Home Energy Auditor Brenda Franklin tested Karen’s furnace and discovered the 40+ year-old, 55% efficient boiler was leaking significant amounts of Carbon Monoxide (CO2) into Karen’s home, well above safety standards. The CO2 levels near the boiler were measured at 1100 parts per million (ppm), whereas Building Performance Institute guidelines state that anything between 0-25 ppm is normal. The US Environmental Protection Agency also suggests that the maximum safe 8-hour exposure to carbon monoxide is 9 ppm or less, and the air in Karen’s basement was at 15 ppm. Room levels of CO2 at or above 9 ppm are usually associated with the use of malfunctioning combustion appliances. Auditor Franklin had no choice but to immediately shut off the gas supply to the boiler and call a heating/cooling specialist for service. Luckily, after Karen’s boiler was turned off, the weather cooperated and evening temperatures did not dip drastically. Karen and her family waited patiently, bundling up in extra blankets on a few chilly nights.  

The next week, Karen’s old and unsafe boiler was replaced with a new 83% efficient model, made possible by the Energy CENTS Coalition. Now Karen and her family enjoy a more comfortable and healthy home environment with lower heating bills.

Karen was also one of the NEC’s first Home Energy Squad customers. She was so impressed with the weather stripping installed on her door, the new CFL’s installed in her light fixtures and other installations all for a reasonable price that she made up her own promotional flyers and passed them out in neighborhood. Thanks to her efforts going door-to-door, several neighbors signed up for Home Energy Squad visits.

NOTE: If your furnace is old and/or inefficient, or you don’t even know the age of your furnace, call your utility provider to schedule a home energy audit which includes a professional carbon monoxide test on the combustion appliances. Generally, if your heating system is older than 20 years and is less than 80% efficient, it is recommended that you replace it with an energy efficient model. If financing is an issue, give the NEC a call. We have a variety of financing options available. It pays to keep your family safe.