Carbon Monoxide Threats
Protecting Your Family from a Silent Killer
Written by CW Suter
Carbon monoxide chimney furnace HVAC
You’ve heard the horror stories. You know that carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless killer. For that reason, you have an HVAC professional inspect your furnace annually, right?
Here’s what you may not know: Carbon monoxide detectors will alert you when levels reach a dangerous, deadly level. Slow carbon monoxide leaks may not be detected, but being exposed to to low levels of CO over an extended period of time can still cause some pretty nasty symptoms in you and your loved ones.
Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning (CO poisoning) include:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Abnormal reflexes
- Difficulty breathing
- Chest pain
Don’t let Carbon Monoxide sneak up on you
For a carbon monoxide leak to occur, three situations must be present.
- Your heating system has to run on gas or oil.
- A problem with the heating system must cause CO to be produced.
- CO has to find a way to escape into living spaces.
Heat Exchanger Danger
A leaking or failed heat exchanger is the most common source of carbon monoxide leaks. The job of the heat exchanger is to vent the deadly gases that result from heat combustion away from ducts and out of your home. Heat exchanger failure is extremely dangerous because in addition to CO being produced, there is also a path for the poisonous gas to creep into inhabited spaces.
Without regular scheduled maintenance, you may never know that your heat exchanger is cracked, corroded, or contains holes. Your furnace will still work even though your heat exchanger has failed.
Blocked vents or chimney flues are a common cause of CO leaks. One of the roles of your ventilation system is to move deadly gases out of your home, but if your vents are clogged, you may be in trouble. Dust and debris could be the culprits, or insect, bird, or rodent nests could be to blame.
Suter’s HVAC professionals will ensure your equipment is clean, safe, and in good working order. By scheduling your annual Fall Furnace Tune-Up, problems can be identified and your furnace can be repaired/replaced on a non-emergency basis.
HVAC Safety Tips & Beyond
What can YOU do to protect your family from a carbon monoxide leak? We’re glad you asked.
- Have your heating system, water heater, and any other gas, oil, or coal burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician every year.
- Install a CO detector in your home and check or replace the battery when you change the batteries in your smoke detector every spring and fall. Having this coincide with your annual Spring and Fall HVAC Tune-Ups is a great idea. Place your CO detector in a place where you will be sure to hear the alarm if it sounds. Depending on the layout of your home, having more than one CO detector may be best. Ask one of our HVAC professionals how many CO detectors is best for your home. Replace your CO detector(s) every five years.
- Never patch a vent pipe with material not intended for pipes (gum, tape, etc). These macgyver-like patches can make CO build up in your home.
- Pay attention to odors coming from your gas refrigerator, because this could signal a CO leak. Call an expert to service it ASAP.
- Do not idle your car inside the garage.
- Gas appliances must be vented properly. Horizontal vent pipes need to angle up slightly as they head outdoors.
- Chimneys need to be cleaned annually. Debris can build up and cause CO to be a serious issue.
- Using a gas range for cooking is a great idea. Using a gas range to heat your home is a really, really bad idea. CO will build up inside your home if you decide to use the oven in this unsafe manner.
- Don’t use your grill or portable gas stove indoors.
- In the event that you need to use a generator, do not place it inside your home, garage, or basement.
If you suspect a carbon monoxide leak, the first thing you need to do is get out of your home. Treat a CO leak as you would a fire. This gas is extremely dangerous and can kill in minutes. After you evacuate the home, call the fire department. They have the tools to determine if a carbon monoxide leak is present.