A (free) home energy assessment might save your life

We here at Sealed are all about guaranteeing your energy savings. However, did you know that a home energy assessment could also save your life?

Before I go any further, a little introduction. I’m working with Sealed to spread the word about home energy efficiency while studying energy policy and management at Columbia University. And coming from Northern Europe (Latvia), I know how to appreciate a warm, cozy home that does not waste money.

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Prior to coming to New York, I worked at an oil and gas publication and roamed around the earth with my suitcase for three years. My favorite spot? Lagos, Nigeria, my biggest love-hate relationship. You just cannot stay neutral towards Africa’s largest city.

One of the things that struck me while working with Sealed is how energy assessments have a big safety element in addition to a focus on lowering energy bills and improving comfort.

During a recent home energy assessment in Islip, NY, one of our customers complained about draft in the living room downstairs. Dan Hochman, our home energy advisor, checked the house thoroughly and discovered leaks around the windows as well as poor insulation in one of the walls.

Pretty standard so far.

But while doing the usual oil boiler check-up, Dan discovered that its flue gas contained dangerously high levels of a potential killer: carbon monoxide.

Under normal circumstances, burning carbon-based fuels such as oil, natural gas or wood will create carbon dioxide, or CO2. However, when oxygen is in short supply, each carbon atom bonds with only one oxygen atom, creating carbon monoxide, or CO. These kinds of conditions can occur in closed spaces, such as car engines or, in our case, boilers used for heating our homes.

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Carbon monoxide is often called the “silent killer”. Odorless, tasteless, colorless, and only slightly heavier than air, CO can creep up on unsuspecting victims without anyone noticing. When inhaled, the gas molecules bind themselves to red blood cells, preventing them from delivering oxygen around the body, causing suffocation.

“Most people assume their boiler is safe,” says Dan. “However, about 5-10% of homes have dangerous levels of CO that can be really harmful. This is below the amount that will trigger most carbon monoxide detectors, but it is enough to potentially cause serious health issues.”

Indeed, CO is no joke. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 400 people in the U.S. die annually from CO poisoning, and in 2011, heating systems were the second highest cause of CO-related death.

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Prolonged exposure to the gas can damage the central nervous system, which can often result in permanent pathologies in the long term, including changes in memory, brain function, and even behavior.

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Even doses as low as 35 ppm (parts per million) are toxic to humans. Dan says he often encounters issues in homes that don’t have their boiler regularly services.

“If your boiler is not regularly serviced, it makes sense to have a free home energy assessment,” says Dan. “We will check how well the boiler is drafting and combusting and suggest ways to address any health and safety issues issues.”

So there you go. Get your home energy assessment. It might just save your life.

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