Our Pros Answer Your Questions About Carbon Monoxide

July 05, 2022

Furnaces combust fuel like oil and natural gas to generate heat for your home. As a byproduct of this process, carbon monoxide is released. Carbon monoxide is a common and hazardous gas that can cause all kinds of health and breathing problems. Fortunately, furnaces are installed with flue pipes that vent carbon monoxide safely outside of your home. But when a furnace breaks down or the flue pipes are loose, CO might leak out into the house.

While professional furnace repair in Omaha can correct carbon monoxide leaks, it's also essential to know the warning signs of CO poisoning. You should also install carbon monoxide detectors near bedrooms, kitchens and hallways near these rooms. We'll offer up more facts about carbon monoxide so you can take steps to keep you and your family breathing easy.

What Is Carbon Monoxide?

Carbon monoxide is a gas comprised of one carbon molecule and one oxygen molecule. When a flammable fuel such as wood, coal or natural gas burns, carbon monoxide is released. It normally dissipates over time since CO gas weighs less than air. But when your home or furnace doesn’t have enough ventilation, carbon monoxide could reach higher concentrations. As a matter of fact, one of the reasons it's regarded as a harmful gas is because it doesn't have a color, odor or taste. Levels may climb without somebody noticing. That's why it's essential to install a carbon monoxide detector in your home. A CO detector is perfect for recognizing the presence of CO and alerting your family via the alarm system.

What Produces Carbon Monoxide in a House?

Carbon monoxide is created when any kind of fuel is ignited. This includes natural gas, propane, oil, wood and coal. Natural gas is particularly common as a result of its wide availability and inexpensive price, making it a consistent source of household CO emissions. Aside from your furnace, most of your home's other appliances that require these fuels can emit carbon monoxide, such as:

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

As we stated above, the carbon monoxide your furnace generates is usually removed safely outside of your home with the flue pipe. In fact, nearly all homes won't need to worry about carbon monoxide poisoning since they possess proper ventilation. It's only when CO gas is trapped in your home that it grows to concentrations high enough to cause poisoning.

What Does Carbon Monoxide Do to the Body?

When carbon monoxide gas is inhaled, it can bind to the hemoglobin in your blood cells. This stops oxygen from binding to the blood cells, disrupting your body's capability to carry oxygen in the bloodstream. So even if there's adequate oxygen in a room, your body wouldn't be able to absorb it. Insufficient oxygen affects every part of the body. If you're exposed to hazardous levels of CO over a long period of time, you can experience a variety of symptoms:

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

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

These symptoms (especially the less serious ones) are easily mistaken for the flu given that they're so generalized. But if you have several family members experiencing symptoms at the same time, it can be indicative that there's CO gas in your home. If you believe you are struggling with CO poisoning, leave the house immediately and contact 911. Medical professionals can make sure your symptoms are managed. Then, get in touch with a certified technician to inspect your furnace and HVAC ventilation system. They will find where the gas is coming from.

How to Eliminate Carbon Monoxide

Once a technician has found carbon monoxide in your house, they'll pinpoint the source and seal off the leak. It could be any of your fuel-burning appliances, so it can take some 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 are some things you can do to reduce CO levels in your home:

  1. Verify that your furnace is appropriately vented and that there aren't any clogs in the flue pipe or someplace else that would trap carbon monoxide gas in your home.
  2. Keep doors open between rooms when you use appliances that produce carbon monoxide, like fireplaces, stoves or ovens, to increase ventilation.
  3. Try not to use a gas stove or oven to heat your home. These appliances would have to run constantly, wasting energy and placing heavy strain on them.
  4. Never burn charcoal inside. Not only could it leave 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 allow carbon monoxide to vent out of the house.
  7. Stay on top of routine furnace maintenance in Omaha. A broken down or malfunctioning furnace is a frequent source of carbon monoxide problems.
  8. Most important, install carbon monoxide detectors. These useful alarms detect CO gas much faster than humans do.

How Many Carbon Monoxide Detectors Will I Need?

It's important to install at least one carbon monoxide detector on each level of your home, not to mention the basement. Prioritize bedrooms and other spaces further away from the exits. This offers people who were sleeping adequate time to evacuate safely. It's also a great idea to set up carbon monoxide alarms close to sources of CO gas, including your kitchen stove or a water heater. Lastly, very large homes should look at extra CO detectors for consistent distribution throughout the entire house.

Let's pretend a home has three floors, including the basement. With the aforementioned suggestions, you'd want to put in three to four carbon monoxide detectors.

  • One alarm should be installed near the furnace and/or water heater.
  • The second alarm can be installed close to the kitchen.
  • And the third and fourth alarms should be installed near or in bedrooms.

Professional Installation Reduces the Risk of Carbon Monoxide

Avoiding a carbon monoxide leak is always better than resolving the leak after it’s been located. An easy way to avert a CO gas leak in your furnace is by trusting furnace installation in Omaha to certified specialists like Interstate Heating & Air Conditioning. They know how to install your preferred make and model to ensure optimum efficiency and minimal risk.