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Kansas City couple attributes unexplained illness to chimney flue

Bad furnace/water heater flue from the top
Bad furnace/water heater flue from the top
HearthMasters, Inc. used with permission

Warren and Sylvia Anderson had been having headaches, nausea and dizziness for several weeks, but only when they were inside their home in the Brookside area of Kansas City, Missouri. While outside or at work the symptoms cleared up, only to return in the evening. After doing research online, the couple installed a Carbon Monoxide detector in the basement and dining room. The alarm went off a few minutes after installation, and that is when they knew there was a problem. But they couldn’t find the source.

Sylvia said that she knew CO was not coming from the garage since they didn’t park their car inside. The couple then decided that the source of the problem must be the furnace and called a local HVAC company, but the technician found no problems with the furnace. He did, however, find that there was no draft going through the chimney and suggested that the couple call a chimney expert. The tech shut down the furnace and water heater so that no further CO would enter the house.

“We were very worried,” said Sylvia Anderson. “I was at my wits end about this and scared to sleep in the house without the windows open, even though at times it was very cold.”

Carbon Monoxide is an odorless, tasteless, colorless gas that is a by-product of combustion. Depending on the amount of CO and the length of exposure, CO can cause flu-like symptoms, fainting, irreversible brain damage and even death. Source:

The Andersons called a professional chimney technician from Independence to inspect the chimney and find the source of the CO backup on April 8, 2014. The chimney sweep found a large clog in the 100-year old brick chimney which was completely blocking the flue. Part of the flue liner was missing, and other sections were missing mortar joints due to exposure to rain and acidic flue gasses over the years. Mortar had washed out of joints between the bricks and flue liner, and over time the flue filled up from the bottom with debris. The technician said that the flue could not vent properly and that is what the source of the Carbon Monoxide was.

On April 10 the chimney sweep cut out a section of bricks to access the interior of the chimney, removed the debris blocking the flue, then installed a new stainless steel flue liner with a rain cap that was sized for the appliances to draft correctly. The appliances are now working properly and the Andersons are very glad to have found the problem before they got severely ill, or worse.

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