Carbon Monoxide Poisoning in a Home Furnace System

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Carbon Monoxide Poisoning in a Home Furnace System

Carbon monoxide poisoning in your home is no joke. It is the cause of nearly 400 deaths and it sends 20,000 people to the hospital every year. Carbon monoxide is created when a heating system runs – not just a furnace. Carbon monoxide is a byproduct of many heating systems, such as gas and oil furnaces, gas and oil boilers, wood pellet stoves, and wood burning stoves. It is almost impossible for humans to detect a carbon monoxide leak because it is odorless and colorless, and the beginning stages of carbon monoxide poisoning are similar to symptoms of the flu (nausea, dizziness, vomiting, headache, weakness, unconsciousness). So, in order to protect your loved ones from carbon monoxide poisoning, we first need to know what causes this, and what we can do to prevent and detect it.

If you are worried about carbon monoxide poisoning harming your family, the first thing you should do is have a professional check your furnace or heating system. This should be part of your HVAC preventative maintenance your HVAC professional conducts twice a year.

Every spring you should have your air conditioning system checked by an HVAC specialist before you run it for the summer. Every fall you should have your heating system checked as well. If your heating system is running properly, there is pretty much no way that you will have a carbon monoxide leak. However, if your system is having issues, a trained HVAC specialist will be able to find these problems before they become deadly. The most common causes for carbon monoxide leaks are: cracks in the combustion chamber, cracked exhaust piping, leaking seams, or a combustion process that is incomplete. If you have an older system, this will increase the likelihood of a carbon monoxide leak, but normal wear and tear can also cause leaks. 

Although some home projects can be DIY, HVAC maintenance should not be one of those things. HVAC systems can be complicated, and with something as deadly as carbon monoxide poisoning as a consequence, leave it to a professional. They know what issues to be on the lookout for, as well as warning signs for problems that may come up later on. HVAC specialists recommend having your system checked in the fall and the spring. 

Even though you shouldn’t do the maintenance yourself, you can still help keep your loved ones safe. If you haven’t already, go purchase carbon monoxide detectors immediately! They are similar to smoke detectors, and they are the only way to detect carbon monoxide (an odorless, colorless gas). recommends installing detectors on each floor of your home, as well as in or near each bedroom. If your garage is attached, consider placing one in there as well. 

Unfortunately, carbon monoxide detectors are only able to detect extremely high levels of the gas. If your detectors do go off, exit your home immediately and call your local fire department to come check for the gas leak. However, you may still have a carbon monoxide leak, even if your detectors do not go off. Smaller leaks can still be harmful to humans when exposed to the gas for extended periods of time. The best way to ensure that your heating system is not leaking is to schedule an annual inspection with an HVAC specialist. The Center for Disease Control strongly recommends having a trained HVAC technician check out your system each year. Don’t wait until you hear you hear your carbon monoxide alarm beep, by then it might be too late. Call and schedule an appointment with an HVAC specialist today.

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