LINCOLN, Neb. — The City Building and Safety Department today is warning area residents with new roofs that improper roof venting for heating systems can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.
Building and Safety Director Chad Blahak said his office has heard from multiple residents who discovered the problem when having their heating systems checked for the winter.
Building and Safety is not required to inspect new residential shingle replacements.
Many residents have recently had new roofs installed as a result of the May 2016 hail storm. Blahak said it appears that some installers covered up vents or improperly installed vent caps.
He said his office has received four to six complaints from people in Lincoln and then the city also contacted one or two contractors.
"Once they were made aware of one incident, they proactively went back to each one of the houses that they did re-roofing for and did checks, and as they indicated to us, they found a number of improperly installed caps and rectified the situation with their customers."
If exhaust from the heating system or plumbing “vent stacks” is not allowed to vent, it can cause a buildup of deadly carbon monoxide or dangerous hydrogen sulfide (sewer gas) in the home.
Blahak said residents with new roofs should contact a licensed heating contractor for an inspection before turning on the heat. Residents should not attempt to check the roof vents themselves.
Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that is produced anytime fuel is burned.
Symptoms of exposure are headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. Inhaling carbon monoxide can make you pass out or kill you, and those who are sleeping can die from carbon monoxide poisoning before they have symptoms.
Lincoln Fire and Rescue reminds residents to leave their homes immediately and call 911 if they experience or suspect any of these signs or symptoms.
Lincoln Fire and Rescue Chief Michael Despain said this poses potential problems for the city and firefighters, "We have had cases where firefighters have went into homes where people are exhibiting a medical emergency, looks like a typical medical illness, however it turned out to be something in the atmosphere, carbon monoxide usually."
Despain added firefighters do have monitors, but he's also worried about multiple carbon monoxide calls at one time that could stretch resources thin throughout the city.
Hydrogen sulfide has a “rotten egg” smell and can cause respiratory problems, especially in people with respiratory ailments. Officials recommend that every home have a working carbon monoxide detector on every level.