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Our Pros Answer Your Questions About Carbon Monoxide

July 05, 2022

Furnaces burn fuels including oil and natural gas to generate heat for your home. As a result of this process, carbon monoxide is produced. Carbon monoxide is flammable and hazardous gas that can cause all sorts of health and breathing complications. Luckily, furnaces are installed with flue pipes that release carbon monoxide safely outside of your home. But when a furnace breaks or the flue pipes are cracked, CO can leak into the house.

While quality furnace repair in Anchorage can take care of carbon monoxide leaks, it's also essential to learn the warning signs of CO poisoning. You should also put in carbon monoxide detectors in bedrooms, kitchens and hallways close by these rooms. We'll offer up more facts about carbon monoxide so you can take 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 something such as wood, coal or natural gas ignites, carbon monoxide is released. It usually scatters over time since CO gas is lighter than air. But when your home or furnace doesn’t have adequate ventilation, carbon monoxide will sometimes reach higher concentrations. In fact, one of the reasons it's regarded as a dangerous gas is because it lacks color, odor or taste. Levels can rise without anybody noticing. That's why it's essential to install a carbon monoxide detector in your home. It's perfect for discerning faint traces of CO and alerting everyone in the house using the alarm system.

What Produces Carbon Monoxide in a House?

Carbon monoxide is released when any type of fuel is burned. This encompasses natural gas, propane, oil, wood and coal. Natural gas is particularly commonplace due to its availability and affordable price, making it a frequent source of household CO emissions. Besides your furnace, lots of your home's other appliances that require these fuels can emit carbon monoxide, including:

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

As we outlined earlier, the carbon monoxide a furnace produces is ordinarily vented safely out of your home via the flue pipe. In fact, nearly all homes don't have to worry about carbon monoxide problems because they possess proper ventilation. It's only when CO gas is confined in your home that it passes concentrations high enough to cause poisoning.

What Will Carbon Monoxide Do to the Body?

When carbon monoxide gas is breathed in, it can bind to the hemoglobin in your blood cells. This prevents oxygen from binding to the blood cells, interrupting your body's capability to carry oxygen through the bloodstream. So even if there's adequate oxygen in a room, your body wouldn't be able to absorb it. A shortage of oxygen harms every part of the body. If you're in contact with harmful amounts of CO over a long period of time, you can experience the following symptoms:

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

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

These symptoms (namely the less severe ones) are often mistaken for the flu because they're so generalized. But if you have multiple family members suffering from symptoms at the same time, it can be a sign that there's carbon monoxide in your home. If you believe you are suffering from CO poisoning, get out of the house immediately and call 911. Medical professionals can make sure your symptoms are treated. Then, get in touch with a certified technician to check your furnace and HVAC ventilation system. They should find where the gas is leaking.

How to Get Rid of Carbon Monoxide

Once a technician has discovered carbon monoxide in your house, they'll find the source and seal off the leak. It could be any of your fuel-burning appliances, so it can take a bit of time to find 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 limit CO levels in your home:

  1. Verify that your furnace is adequately vented and that there aren't any clogs in the flue pipe or somewhere else that can trap carbon monoxide gas in your home.
  2. Keep doors open between rooms when using appliances that produce 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, squandering energy and putting heavy strain on them.
  4. Don't burn charcoal inside your home. Not only will it create 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 confined spaces.
  6. If you use a wood-burning fireplace, make sure the flue is open when in use to enable carbon monoxide to exit the house.
  7. Keep up with routine furnace maintenance in Anchorage. A broken down or malfunctioning furnace is a common source of carbon monoxide emissions.
  8. Most important, put in carbon monoxide detectors. These helpful alarms notice CO gas much faster than humans do.

How Many Carbon Monoxide Detectors Will I Need?

It's vital to place at least one carbon monoxide detector on every level of your home, as well as the basement. Prioritize bedrooms and other spaces further from the exits. This gives people who were sleeping enough time to evacuate safely. It's also a good 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 extra CO detectors for consistent distribution throughout the entire house.

Suppose a home has three floors, including the basement. With the previously mentioned suggestions, you'd want to put in three to four carbon monoxide alarms.

  • One alarm could be placed around the furnace and/or water heater.
  • The second alarm can be installed near the kitchen.
  • And the third and fourth alarms should be installed near or within bedrooms.

Professional Installation Reduces the Risk of Carbon Monoxide

Protecting against a carbon monoxide leak is always more effective than resolving the leak once it’s been discovered. One of the best ways to prevent a CO gas leak in your furnace is by trusting furnace installation in Anchorage to licensed specialists like Discount Mechanical Heating & Plumbing Services. They recognize how to install your chosen make and model to ensure maximum efficiency and minimal risk.