Our Pros Answer Your Questions About Carbon Monoxide

July 05, 2022

Furnaces combust fuels such as oil and natural gas to produce heat for your home. As a side effect of this process, carbon monoxide is released. Carbon monoxide is a common and hazardous gas that can trigger a lot of health and breathing issues. Fortunately, furnaces are built with flue pipes that release carbon monoxide safely away from the house. But if a furnace malfunctions or the flue pipes are cracked, CO can leak into the house.

While high quality furnace repair in Lexington can fix carbon monoxide leaks, it's also critical to recognize the warning signs of CO in your home's air. You should also put in carbon monoxide detectors inside bedrooms, kitchens and hallways nearby these rooms. We'll offer up more info about carbon monoxide so you can take steps to keep you and your family safe.

What Is Carbon Monoxide?

Carbon monoxide is a gas comprised of one carbon molecule and one oxygen molecule. When a flammable fuel like wood, coal or natural gas combusts, carbon monoxide is produced. It generally dissipates over time since CO gas is lighter than air. But when your home or furnace doesn’t have enough ventilation, carbon monoxide may reach elevated concentrations. What's more, one of the reasons it's considered a harmful gas is because it doesn't have a color, odor or taste. Levels could increase without someone noticing. This is why it's vital to put in a carbon monoxide detector in your home. A CO detector is perfect for identifying faint traces of CO and alerting you via the alarm system.

What Emits Carbon Monoxide in a House?

Carbon monoxide is produced when any kind of fuel is combusted. This encompasses natural gas, propane, oil, wood and coal. Natural gas is especially commonplace because of its prevalence and inexpensive price, making it a frequent source of household CO emissions. Besides your furnace, lots of your home's other appliances that require these fuels will emit carbon monoxide, such as:

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

As we mentioned earlier, the carbon monoxide your furnace produces is normally removed safely away from your home with the flue pipe. In fact, nearly all homes don't have to worry about carbon monoxide accumulation since they possess sufficient ventilation. It's only when CO gas is contained in your home that it passes concentrations high enough to induce poisoning.

What Can Carbon Monoxide Do to the Body?

When carbon monoxide gas is breathed in, it can adhere to the hemoglobin in your blood cells. This prevents oxygen from binding to the blood cells, interrupting your body's capability to move oxygen in the bloodstream. So even if there's adequate oxygen in a room, your body wouldn't be able to utilize it. Lack of oxygen harms every part of the body. If you're subjected to dangerous levels of CO over a long period of time, you can experience the following symptoms:

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

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

These symptoms (namely the less serious ones) are frequently mistaken for the flu because they're so generalized. But if you have different family members suffering from symptoms at the same time, it may be indicative that there's a CO gas leak in your home. If you think you are struggling with CO poisoning, leave the house straight away and call 911. Medical professionals can make sure your symptoms are controlled. Then, contact a professional technician to check your furnace and HVAC ventilation system. They should determine where the gas is coming from.

How to Eliminate Carbon Monoxide

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

  1. Verify that your furnace is appropriately 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 when you use appliances that emit carbon monoxide, like fireplaces, stoves or ovens, to maximize ventilation.
  3. Avoid using a gas stove or oven to heat your home. These appliances would have to run night and day, wasting energy and putting heavy strain on them.
  4. Do not burn charcoal inside your home. 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 enable carbon monoxide to vent out of the house.
  7. Take care of routine furnace maintenance in Lexington. A broken or defective furnace is a common source of carbon monoxide leaks.
  8. Most importantly, set up carbon monoxide detectors. These helpful alarms recognize CO gas much sooner than humans do.

How Many Carbon Monoxide Detectors Do I Need?

It's crucial to place at least one carbon monoxide detector on each level of your home, as well as the basement. Focus on bedrooms and other spaces further from the exits. This offers people who were sleeping enough time to exit the home. It's also a great idea to install carbon monoxide alarms near sources of CO gas, like your kitchen stove or the water heater. And finally, especially large homes should look at even more CO detectors for equal coverage of the entire house.

Let's pretend a home has three floors, along with the basement. With the above recommendations, you should have three to four carbon monoxide sensors.

  • One alarm could be mounted near the furnace and/or water heater.
  • The second alarm should be set up around the kitchen.
  • Both the third and fourth alarms should be installed near or inside bedrooms.

Professional Installation Minimizes the Risk of Carbon Monoxide

Avoiding a carbon monoxide leak is always more beneficial than fixing the leak after it’s been located. An easy way to prevent a CO gas leak in your furnace is by leaving furnace installation in Lexington to trained specialists like James Heating & A/C, Inc. They know how to install your desired make and model to ensure optimal efficiency and minimal risk.