Our Pros Answer Your Questions About Carbon Monoxide

July 05, 2022

Furnaces combust fuels including oil and natural gas to create heat for your home. As a result of this process, carbon monoxide is created. Carbon monoxide is a potentially hazardous gas that can trigger a lot of health and breathing issues. Thankfully, furnaces are installed with flue pipes that vent carbon monoxide safely outside of your home. But when a furnace breaks or the flue pipes are loose, CO could leak into the house.

While quality furnace repair in Erie can take care of carbon monoxide leaks, it's also important to learn the warning signs of CO in your house. You should also put in carbon monoxide detectors in bedrooms, kitchens and hallways close by these rooms. We'll review more info about carbon monoxide so you can make a plan to keep you and your family healthy.

What Is Carbon Monoxide?

Carbon monoxide is a gas made up of one carbon molecule and one oxygen molecule. When something such as wood, coal or natural gas burns, carbon monoxide is produced. It generally dissipates over time because CO gas is lighter than air. But when your home or furnace doesn’t have sufficient ventilation, carbon monoxide can reach higher concentrations. What's more, one of the reasons it's considered a harmful gas is because it has no color, odor or taste. Levels could rise without anyone noticing. That's why it's vital to put in a carbon monoxide detector in your home. A carbon monoxide detector is perfect for recognizing faint traces of CO and alerting everyone in the house with the alarm system.

What Produces Carbon Monoxide in a House?

Carbon monoxide is created when any kind of fuel is burnt. This encompasses natural gas, propane, oil, wood and coal. Natural gas is particularly popular because of its availability and inexpensive price, making it a consistent source of household CO emissions. Besides your furnace, lots of your home's other appliances that utilize these fuels will emit carbon monoxide, including:

  • Water heaters
  • Stoves
  • Ovens
  • Fireplaces
  • Wood stoves
  • Hot tubs
  • and more

Like we outlined earlier, the carbon monoxide a furnace generates is ordinarily vented safely away from your home via the flue pipe. In fact, nearly all homes don't have to worry about carbon monoxide problems because they possess sufficient ventilation. It's only when CO gas is trapped in your home that it reaches concentrations high enough to cause poisoning.

What Can Carbon Monoxide Do to the Body?

After carbon monoxide gas is breathed in, it can bind to the hemoglobin in your blood cells. This blocks oxygen from binding to the blood cells, getting in the way of your body's ability to carry oxygen through the bloodstream. So even if there's enough oxygen in a room, your body wouldn't be able to utilize it. A shortage of oxygen affects every part of the body. If you're exposed to harmful quantities of CO over a long period of time, you may experience the following symptoms:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath

At even higher levels, the complications of carbon monoxide poisoning are even more serious. In large enough concentrations, it's capable of becoming fatal. Symptoms can include chest pain, confusion, agitation, seizures and unconsciousness.

These symptoms (namely the less serious signs) are frequently mistaken for the flu because they're so generalized. But if you have multiple family members experiencing symptoms simultaneously, it might be evidence that there's carbon monoxide in your home. If you think you are suffering from CO poisoning, exit the house immediately and call 911. Medical professionals can ensure your symptoms are managed. Then, call a trained technician to examine your furnace and HVAC ventilation system. They can identify where the gas is coming from.

How to Get Rid of Carbon Monoxide

When a technician has identified carbon monoxide in your house, they'll pinpoint the source and fix the leak. It might be any of your fuel-burning appliances, so it may take a bit of time to find the exact spot. Your technician will look for soot or smoke stains and other signs of carbon monoxide. In the meantime, here are some things you can work on to minimize CO levels in your home:

  1. Make sure your furnace is appropriately vented and that there are no blockages in the flue pipe or someplace else that would trap carbon monoxide gas in your home.
  2. Keep doors open between rooms when using appliances that create carbon monoxide, like fireplaces, stoves or ovens, to maximize ventilation.
  3. Never use a gas stove or oven to heat your home. These appliances would be running constantly, needlessly consuming energy and putting heavy strain on them.
  4. Do not burn charcoal indoors. Not only could it make a mess, but it will also emit carbon monoxide.
  5. Try not to use fuel-powered generators, pressure washers or other gas-powered tools in enclosed spaces.
  6. If you have a wood-burning fireplace, make sure the flue is open when in use to allow carbon monoxide to vent out of the house.
  7. Keep up with routine furnace maintenance in Erie. A broken or faulty furnace is a common source of carbon monoxide leaks.
  8. Most importantly, put in carbon monoxide detectors. These helpful alarms recognize CO gas much quicker than humans can.

How Many Carbon Monoxide Detectors Should I Install?

It's important to place at least one carbon monoxide detector on every floor of your home, as well as the basement. Focus on bedrooms and other spaces farther from the exits. This gives people who were sleeping plenty of time to evacuate safely. It's also a great idea to install carbon monoxide alarms near sources of CO gas, including your kitchen stove or your water heater. Lastly, very large homes should consider even more CO detectors for consistent protection for the entire house.

Let's pretend a home has three floors, including the basement. With the aforementioned recommendations, you'll want to install three to four carbon monoxide alarms.

  • One alarm could be installed close to the furnace and/or water heater.
  • The second alarm could be put in close to the kitchen.
  • Both the third and fourth alarms could be installed near or within bedrooms.

Professional Installation Minimizes the Risk of Carbon Monoxide

Avoiding a carbon monoxide leak is always more effective than repairing the leak after it’s been discovered. An easy way to avoid a CO gas leak in your furnace is by trusting furnace installation in Erie to licensed professionals like Patterson & Stirling Inc. They know how to install your chosen make and model to ensure optimal efficiency and minimal risk.