Our Pros Answer Your Questions About Carbon Monoxide

July 05, 2022

Furnaces combust fuel like oil and natural gas to provide heat for your home. As a side effect of this process, carbon monoxide is released. Carbon monoxide is a potentially hazardous gas that can result in a lot of health and breathing problems. Thankfully, furnaces are built with flue pipes that release carbon monoxide safely out of your home. But in the event a furnace breaks or the flue pipes are cracked, CO can leak out into the house.

While quality furnace repair in Elk River can correct carbon monoxide leaks, it's also critical to learn the warning signs of CO in your house. You should also put in carbon monoxide detectors near bedrooms, kitchens and hallways near these rooms. We'll review more facts about carbon monoxide so you can take the appropriate steps 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 a fuel such as wood, coal or natural gas ignites, carbon monoxide is produced. It generally scatters over time as CO gas weighs less than air. But when your home or furnace doesn’t have enough ventilation, carbon monoxide will sometimes reach elevated concentrations. As a matter of fact, one of the reasons it's viewed as a hazardous gas is because it doesn't have a color, odor or taste. Levels may climb without anybody noticing. This is why it's crucial to have a carbon monoxide detector in your home. It's capable of discerning faint traces of CO and notifying everyone in the house via the alarm system.

What Creates Carbon Monoxide in a House?

Carbon monoxide is produced when any form of fuel is combusted. This may include natural gas, propane, oil, wood and coal. Natural gas is especially common due to its wide availability and inexpensive price, making it a consistent source of household CO emissions. Apart from your furnace, many of your home's other appliances that require these fuels will emit carbon monoxide, like:

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

As we stated before, the carbon monoxide your furnace produces is ordinarily released safely outside of your home through the flue pipe. In fact, the majority of homes won't need to worry about carbon monoxide poisoning because they have proper ventilation. It's only when CO gas is contained in your home that it reaches concentrations high enough to induce poisoning.

What Does Carbon Monoxide Do to the Body?

When carbon monoxide gas is breathed in, it can attach to the hemoglobin in your blood cells. This keeps oxygen from binding to the blood cells, interrupting your body's ability to carry oxygen throughout the bloodstream. So even if there's enough oxygen in a room, your body wouldn't be able to absorb it. Insufficient oxygen affects every part of the body. If you're subjected to hazardous concentrations of CO over a long period of time, you may experience a variety of symptoms:

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

At even more potent levels, the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are even more detrimental. In heavy enough concentrations, it's capable of being fatal. Symptoms include chest pain, confusion, agitation, seizures and loss of consciousness.

These symptoms (especially the less dangerous symptoms) are often mistaken for the flu given that they're so generalized. But if you have different family members experiencing symptoms concurrently, it could be indicative that there's carbon monoxide in your home. If you think you have CO poisoning, exit the house immediately and contact 911. Medical experts can ensure your symptoms are managed. Then, call a trained technician to inspect your furnace and HVAC ventilation system. They can identify where the gas is escaping.

How to Remove Carbon Monoxide

Once a technician has discovered carbon monoxide in your house, they'll pinpoint the source and seal the leak. It could be any of your fuel-burning appliances, so it can take some time to locate the exact spot. Your technician will be looking for soot or smoke stains and other evidence of carbon monoxide. In the meantime, here's what you can work on to reduce CO levels in your home:

  1. Verify that your furnace is adequately vented and that there aren't any blockages in the flue pipe or somewhere else that could trap carbon monoxide gas in your home.
  2. Keep doors open between rooms whenever you use appliances that produce carbon monoxide, like fireplaces, stoves or ovens, to improve ventilation.
  3. Try not to use a gas stove or oven to heat your home. These appliances would need to run night and day, wasting energy and adding heavy strain on them.
  4. Do not burn charcoal indoors. Not only will it make a mess, but it's also a source of carbon monoxide.
  5. Avoid using fuel-powered generators, pressure washers or other gas-powered tools in enclosed spaces.
  6. If you own a wood-burning fireplace, ensure the flue is open when in use to permit carbon monoxide to vent out of the house.
  7. Keep up with routine furnace maintenance in Elk River. A broken or malfunctioning furnace is a frequent source of carbon monoxide problems.
  8. Most important, set up carbon monoxide detectors. These handy alarms detect CO gas much faster than humans do.

How Many Carbon Monoxide Detectors Should I Install?

It's vital to set up at least one carbon monoxide detector on every level of your home, including the basement. Focus on bedrooms and other spaces farther from the exits. This gives people who were sleeping plenty of time to get out. It's also a good idea to install carbon monoxide alarms close to sources of CO gas, like your kitchen stove or your water heater. Finally, particularly large homes should think about installing even more CO detectors for consistent coverage of the entire house.

Suppose a home has three floors, along with the basement. With the previously mentioned recommendations, you'd want to install three to four carbon monoxide sensors.

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

Professional Installation Reduces the Risk of Carbon Monoxide

Preventing a carbon monoxide leak is always better than fixing the leak once it’s been located. An easy way to prevent a CO gas leak in your furnace is by leaving furnace installation in Elk River to certified specialists like Home Comfort Heating & Air. They recognize how to install your desired make and model to ensure optimal efficiency and minimal risk.