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Old 01-09-2002
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Carbon Monoxide on Board

I have a diesel engine and an Espar diesel forced air heater. Is the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning down below the same as with a gas heater? And is having a CO monitor necessary with these on board?

Sue & Larry respond:
Carbon monoxide is produced as a by-product of almost any fuel combustion. On a sailboat, this can result from your cooking stove if it's not well ventilated, or even your engine should there be a leak in the exhaust system. The most common culprit for sailors is onboard heaters. If exposed to too much CO, you can experience dizziness, sleepiness, and nausea. But keep in mind that this can lead to serious problems and can be deadly.

Like your diesel engine, the Espar heater on your boat vents all the exhaust overboard, probably through a fitting located at the transom. This greatly minimizes the chances of any CO poisoning, but doesnít eliminate it altogether. Fittings can leak, hoses can puncture, etc. Itís also possible to find yourself in a situation where the exhaust from your cabin heater or your engine could blow back into the boat. We know of one instance where this occurred, so it pays to be vigilant. To that end, it only makes sense to invest in a CO detector, particularly since they are now priced as low as $50.00. Good luck to you with your Espar.

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