Debbie Roberts noticed something unusual about her roof on cold frosty mornings last winter. While her neighbors’ roofs were covered with frost, hers wasn’t. “It seemed odd that my roof was different from all the other homes in my neighborhood,” Roberts, a resident and electric customer of the City of Kinston, remembers. “I thought perhaps there was something wrong with my insulation, that heat was escaping into my attic, or that it might be something else.”
Acting on her hunch, she called the City of Kinston to request an energy audit and the city reached out to ElectriCities Lead Energy Auditor Brian McGinn. When McGinn entered Roberts’ attic, he immediately — and thankfully — saw the problem: The flue for the gas water heater had been moved (or dislodged somehow) so it was no longer directly above the center of the water heater, where exhaust gases are emitted.
Quite simply, this was not good; but McGinn knew the solution.
A dislodged flue meant hot exhaust gases were released into the attic (this kept the roof warm and explained the lack of frost that Roberts noticed). But more importantly, it meant that poisonous carbon monoxide was present in the attic. What’s more, Roberts’ gas furnace and air handler were also located in the attic, meaning carbon monoxide could easily get into the home’s supply air stream and create an extremely hazardous situation.
McGinn emphatically told Roberts to secure a second carbon monoxide alarm for the home’s upstairs — she had one downstairs already — and to immediately call the gas company and a plumbing contractor. Roberts followed McGinn’s recommendations promptly, and today the water heater flue has been repaired and tested to ensure there are no dangerous gases present in the attic.
Honest accidents like this happen and they’re why taking action and seeking professional energy audits matter. When asked how the flue might have been moved, Roberts remembers that after a bad storm last fall, she had her roof fixed by a contractor who replaced shingles around the flashing for her water heater flue. Most likely, the work resulted in a misplaced flue.
“I’m just relieved that Brian was able to properly diagnose the problem. It could have been a life-or-death situation,” Roberts says. “And I appreciate all the follow-up to ensure that the problem had been corrected.”
You might call that the frosting on the roof.