Our Pros Answer Your Questions About Carbon Monoxide

July 05, 2022

Furnaces burn fuels such as oil and natural gas to produce heat for your home. As a byproduct of this process, carbon monoxide is created. Carbon monoxide is a common and hazardous gas that can lead to all sorts of health and breathing complications. Fortunately, furnaces are built with flue pipes that ventilate carbon monoxide safely outside of the house. But when a furnace breaks down or the flue pipes are broken, CO could get into the house.

While professional furnace repair in Greater Richmond can fix carbon monoxide leaks, it's also important to recognize the warning signs of CO in your house. You should also put in carbon monoxide detectors near bedrooms, kitchens and hallways close by these rooms. We'll share 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 something such as wood, coal or natural gas combusts, carbon monoxide is produced. It usually breaks up over time because CO gas is lighter than air. But when your home or furnace doesn’t have adequate ventilation, carbon monoxide can reach elevated 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 could climb without anybody noticing. That's why it's crucial to have a carbon monoxide detector in your home. A carbon monoxide detector is perfect for identifying evidence of CO and alerting you using the alarm system.

What Creates Carbon Monoxide in a House?

Carbon monoxide is produced when any form of fuel is ignited. This means natural gas, propane, oil, wood and coal. Natural gas is especially common as a result of its prevalence and affordable price, making it a well-known source of household CO emissions. Apart from your furnace, many of your home's other appliances that require these fuels may emit carbon monoxide, like:

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

Like we outlined above, the carbon monoxide a furnace produces is usually vented safely away from your home through the flue pipe. In fact, nearly all homes don't have to worry about carbon monoxide problems because they have proper ventilation. It's only when CO gas is confined in your home that it reaches concentrations high enough to induce poisoning.

What Can Carbon Monoxide Do to the Body?

When carbon monoxide gas is in your lungs, it can attach to the hemoglobin in your blood cells. This keeps oxygen from binding to the blood cells, getting in the way of your body's capability to move oxygen in the bloodstream. So even if there's enough oxygen in a room, your body wouldn't be able to use it. Lack of oxygen affects every part of the body. If you're in contact with hazardous levels of CO over a long period of time, you may experience a number of symptoms:

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

At even higher levels, the potential health problems of carbon monoxide poisoning are even more detrimental. In heavy enough concentrations, it's capable of being fatal. Symptoms can include chest pain, confusion, agitation, seizures and unconsciousness.

These symptoms (namely the less severe ones) are easily mistaken for the flu given that they're so generalized. But if you have multiple family members struggling with symptoms concurrently, it might be indicative that there's carbon monoxide in your home. If you suspect you have CO poisoning, leave the house straight away and contact 911. Medical professionals can see to it that your symptoms are controlled. Then, contact a trained technician to check your furnace and HVAC ventilation system. They can uncover where the gas is escaping.

How to Eliminate Carbon Monoxide

Once a technician has confirmed there's carbon monoxide in your house, they'll pinpoint the source and fix the leak. It could be any of your fuel-burning appliances, so it might take a bit of time to find the exact 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 do to limit CO levels in your home:

  1. Make sure your furnace is appropriately vented and that there aren't any obstructions in the flue pipe or someplace else that can trap carbon monoxide gas in your home.
  2. Keep doors open between rooms when you use appliances that emit carbon monoxide, including 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 night and day, squandering energy and adding heavy strain on them.
  4. Never 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 compact spaces.
  6. If you have a wood-burning fireplace, make sure the flue is open when in use to permit carbon monoxide to leave the house.
  7. Stay on top of routine furnace maintenance in Greater Richmond. A damaged or faulty furnace is a frequent source of carbon monoxide emissions.
  8. Most important, set up carbon monoxide detectors. These helpful alarms notice CO gas much sooner than humans can.

How Many Carbon Monoxide Detectors Will I Need?

It's vital to install at least one carbon monoxide detector on each level of your home, including the basement. Prioritize bedrooms and other spaces further from the exits. This provides people who were sleeping adequate time to get out. It's also a great idea to install carbon monoxide alarms around sources of CO gas, like your kitchen stove or a water heater. Lastly, especially large homes should think about installing extra CO detectors for equal distribution throughout the entire house.

Let's say a home has three floors, as well as the basement. With the above recommendations, you'll want to put in three to four carbon monoxide alarms.

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

Professional Installation Minimizes the Risk of Carbon Monoxide

Protecting against a carbon monoxide leak is always better than repairing the leak when it’s been located. An easy way to prevent a CO gas leak in your furnace is by passing on furnace installation in Greater Richmond to trained professionals like Herman Allen Plumbing, Heating & Cooling. They understand how to install your chosen make and model to ensure optimum efficiency and minimal risk.