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Respect the CO2

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JohnT

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Now that some of us are actively fermenting their musts, I just want to put it out there the dangers of high levels of CO2.

If you are like me, and ferment large amounts of wine in a medium to small confined area, please remember to respect the CO2.

Now for most of you, this really is not anything that you should worry about. Most hobbyists make batches that are far too small to have any concern about CO2. However, if you are like me, and like to make large yearly batches (especially in confined spaces), you should be aware of the dangers of CO2.

A number of years ago, I almost passed out while punching down. My heart started racing, I had sweat just pouring off of me, and I was very, very shaky. Lucky for me, the wife took one look at me and ordered me outside. Within 10 minutes of breathing fresh air I felt much better.

I firmly believe that it was a good thing that I got out of there when I did. CO2 is heavier than air. If I would have passed out and ended up of the floor I would have been, in fact, at the probable highest concentration of CO2 in the room. I just hate to think what could have happened.

Since then, I have had a healthy respect for CO2. When I punch down, I make it a point to open the double-doors to the winery, turn on a box fan, and let the space air out for 10 minutes. It makes a huge difference, especially during times like now when my wine is at the peak of fermentation activity.

Again, I say that for most of you, this really is not anything that you should worry about. Most hobbyists make batches that are far too small to have any concern about CO2. Even so, I think it would be a good thing to know and be aware of the following symptoms of CO2 intoxication/poisoning symptoms...

headache
increased pulse rate
loss of judgment
labored breathing
unconsciousness (occurs in under a minute when CO2 concentration rises about 10%)
death



If you feel you are experiencing any of the first four symptoms, stop and get to fresh air immediately.

For those that experience either death or unconsciousness, you should have listened to me.. :)
 
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tjgaul

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I WISH my batches were big enough to generate that kind of CO2 volume!

Good info . . . thanks for the heads up.
 

Kraffty

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I almost posted a question on this earlier this week. Does anyone have any numbers on what kind of volume of must vs. square footage we're talking about to be dangerous? I'm sure it's purely psychological but this year the smell when I first open the winery up is overwhelming, almost hard to get a good breath. 6 brutes and about 100 gallons in a 12 x 12 room. Anyway just for comfort I open it up and let it air out for 5 minutes or so before punch downs. Better safe and comfortable than sorry, thanks for the heads up John!
Mike
 

cmason1957

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It is more than just volume of must vs sq footage. The air flow capability in the room comes into play. If you think it is hard to get a good breath, it probably is. I can pretty much count my entire basement as my sq. footage and even when I have fermented something around a half ton of grapes at the same time, I haven't had a problem. I also keep a fairly good-sized box fan blowing over the entire fermenting trash cans. That keeps the fruit flies down as well as keeping good air moving around.
 

JohnT

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Just as CMASON said.

The purpose of the post was to let people know the symptoms and advise to be on the look out for them.
 

dralarms

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I got a co2 detector in my little building. Co2 is some nasty deadly stuff
 

ibglowin

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Mike you should for sure be opening doors in your winery building. My winery is only ~160 ft2 and I have had up to (8) 20G primaries going at once. I recently moved to the garage for primary fermentation as I have more open space and now have 2 garage doors to open as well when needed for punchdowns.

I almost posted a question on this earlier this week. Does anyone have any numbers on what kind of volume of must vs. square footage we're talking about to be dangerous? I'm sure it's purely psychological but this year the smell when I first open the winery up is overwhelming, almost hard to get a good breath. 6 brutes and about 100 gallons in a 12 x 12 room. Anyway just for comfort I open it up and let it air out for 5 minutes or so before punch downs. Better safe and comfortable than sorry, thanks for the heads up John!
Mike
 

bkisel

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I would have never guessed. Thanks for the heads up even though it doesn't apply to me.
 

sour_grapes

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I got a co2 detector in my little building. Co2 is some nasty deadly stuff
If this post were from someone other than dralarms, I would think he or she was confusing it with CO (carbon monoxide)! :)

Where did you get the CO2 alarm? From a little googling, I see that you can now get them as cheap as $130.
 

dralarms

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If this post were from someone other than dralarms, I would think he or she was confusing it with CO (carbon monoxide)! :)

Where did you get the CO2 alarm? From a little googling, I see that you can now get them as cheap as $130.
Actually I did. :slp

Co is dangerous. I'm not sure if co2 is or will just make you light headed
 

ibglowin

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Rather than tie yourself to a single bad actor when too much might be in a room (CO, CO2 or AR Or N2, He, etc) we choose to monitor what is really important in the room in our laboratories. Oxygen levels.
 

sour_grapes

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Rather than tie yourself to a single bad actor when too much might be in a room (CO, CO2 or AR Or N2, He, etc) we choose to monitor what is really important in the room in our laboratories. Oxygen levels.
I'd agree, with the exception of CO. You need a dedicated detector for that. Obviously, you can have levels of O2 in a room that can support life, and levels of CO present that will end it....
 

sour_grapes

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A few years ago, I opined this (which turns out to be a bit misleading):

Small amounts of CO can harm or kill you. CO2 can kill you, but only by asphyxiation -- i.e., lowering the amount of O2 in the air to unsafely low levels.

One thing we have going for us is that we do have built-in CO2 detectors in our bodies. The condition that causes you to feel short of breath and makes you want to breathe (like when you are holding your breath underwater) is not lack of O2 in your blood, but rather an excess of CO2.

If you went into a room that was low in O2 because it was filled mostly with N2 or Ar, you wouldn't feel it -- you would just eventually faint (from lack of O2) and then die. But if you went into a room that was low in O2 because it was filled with CO2, you would be gasping for breath. Thus, although you can be asphyxiated by CO2, it is the hardest substance in the universe to be accidentally asphyxiated by.
I think all of that is technically true, but I do stand corrected on the dangers of breathing elevated levels of CO2. I have come around to John's point of view that you can encounter levels that are hazardous, but not understand what is happening to you.
 

ibglowin

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We have dewars of liquid Argon, Nitrogen, plus quite a few 220cf cylinders of UHP He, AR, CO2 etc.

We have small lecture sized bottles of mixed gas standards with trace amounts (ppm) of things like CO, N20, NO.

If we were to have a catastrophic failure event, CO is probably the least of our worries.

I'd agree, with the exception of CO. You need a dedicated detector for that. Obviously, you can have levels of O2 in a room that can support life, and levels of CO present that will end it....
 

sour_grapes

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Absolutely, I agree. The key phrase in your sentence was "in our laboratories." I should not have said "you need a dedicated CO detector." I should have said, in general, one needs a CO detector, say, in one's home, where there can easily be a source of CO. (I nearly lost a sister and niece last year!)

In a similar way, you said "Rather than tie yourself to a single bad actor," which made it sound to me like you were giving advice that was germane beyond your lab. I stand corrected on that point.
 
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Redbird1

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We have dewars of liquid Argon, Nitrogen, plus quite a few 220cf cylinders of UHP He, AR, CO2 etc.

We have small lecture sized bottles of mixed gas standards with trace amounts (ppm) of things like CO, N20, NO.

If we were to have a catastrophic failure event, CO is probably the least of our worries.
Dewars of liquid argon? Reminds me of this.... skip to 1:05.

[ame]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j0YdqFPbSpc[/ame]
 

Redbird1

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I loved that show! Every time I see a fire alarm, I laugh because of the scene in the pilot. I'm still looking for a comedy that comes close to it.
 

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