How JustAnswer Works:
  • Ask an Expert
    Experts are full of valuable knowledge and are ready to help with any question. Credentials confirmed by a Fortune 500 verification firm.
  • Get a Professional Answer
    Via email, text message, or notification as you wait on our site.
    Ask follow up questions if you need to.
  • 100% Satisfaction Guarantee
    Rate the answer you receive.
Ask qwasert Your Own Question
qwasert, Plumber
Category: Plumbing
Satisfied Customers: 543
Experience:  Journeyman Plumber
Type Your Plumbing Question Here...
qwasert is online now
A new question is answered every 9 seconds

Recently my next door neighbor got very sick and so did I.

This answer was rated:

Recently my next door neighbor got very sick and so did I. We both smelled a gas leak coming from my house. Our houses are attached - we live in row houses.

I have a very old American Standard boiler (probably from the late 1960s). Recently I had a problem with possible carbon monoxide coming into the house from the boiler. We are not sure, but the boiler is very old and inefficient.

Our chimney has never been cleaned since we've lived here. We have lived here for 22 years, and we do not know if the former owners ever cleaned the chimney. We do not know how dirty it is but we were told by plumbers that did estimates for us that the chimney could be the source of the problem. They said it might be blocked or very dirty. It is also not capped. We definitely need the chimney cleaned at least, and then capped.

But the boiler is also very old, and sometimes I get dizzy and have headaches when it is running and the windows are closed. Last week I had to go to the ER because of headaches, and I was dizzy. I now use space heaters and have to air out my house every day.

My question is, which are we supposed to do first? Do we get a new boiler first? Or should we first do a chimney sweep and possibly a chimney repair? I need to know which order it should be done in. I don't think we can arrange both a chimney cleaning and a new boiler on the same day. Please let me know, thank you so much.

qwasert : Hi, Welcome To Just Answer. My name isXXXXX will do my best to help you figure out your problem or the best course of action.
qwasert : How are you today? Give me just a moment while I fully review your question.
qwasert : If your chimney is a brick and mortar type, it is possible that it is leaking into the house. Headache and dizziness are symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. You can call your local fire department for carbon monoxide testing they should have equipment to do that. Also, if the flu on the boiler is partially blocked, via a bird nest or hornet nest, it won't draft properly and carbon monoxide could be coming back down the chimney into the house. If you are planning to replace the boiler soon it may require a different sized flu pipe than the current one in use, in which case you would be out the cost twice. There are very nice boilers available now and some are even 99% efficient when running on propane or natural gas. My best advice is to repair first what you can afford, cleaning the chimney or lining it with a new pipe and vent cap is a great option. If you can settle on a new boiler suitable for replacement and the new venting system is the same as what your current boiler requires, have that new vent installed. Most times when there is an excess amount of carbon monoxide present, is due to an improper combustion in a gas fired appliance, if the air to fuel ratio is out of spec for example.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Hi are you still there?? I'm sorry I was away from the computer! I did not know you were doing chat. Please come back....

I'm sorry Shelia, I cannot restart the chat at this point but please ask questions using the box below.
Is your boiler natural gas, propane or oil?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Oh, I'm sorry I did not see your follow-up question. Our boiler is natural gas, converted from an oil burner.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Ben, I am sorry I was out of chat. I had no idea you were coming into chat or I would have kept the screen up - it seems Just Answer does not prompt when an expert comes on.


I have a gas burner, converted from oil.


My concern is that if I clean the chimney first but keep the old boiler, the boiler will spew out exhaust and make the chimney filthy again. I thought both had to be done at the same time.

The old boiler converted to natural gas should not produce or spew any exhaust that would dirty up the chimney. With that being said, if your natural gas combustion rate is not in spec it can create soot that could line the chimney. The flames on your boiler should be blue, if they are orange to bright orange the combustion rate is off and needs to adjusted by a professional. I highly recommend having the fire department come and do carbon monoxide testing.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

The fire department did come and did the CO testing. But by the time they got here I had every door and window open for over an hour and it was very cold and windy. Whatever CO may have been here the fire department could not pick it up. I went to the hospital and should have had the blood gas testing but declined.


Also, the gas company came here and did a test and it was the same thing. I'm keeping the house open so nobody is finding any CO with all the ventilation. But it is freezing in my house with only the space heaters. I am not well so for me, 35 degrees is cold and the space heaters don't do a good job.


But the CO was not detected. The firefighters admitted with all the ventilation it could have gone out.

That is understandable not wanting to take the risk. At this point I would move forward with any one of the options you can afford. I would recommend replacing the boiler as soon as possible. The new boiler may not even use the old chimney.
qwasert and other Plumbing Specialists are ready to help you