Our Pros Answer Your Questions About Carbon Monoxide

July 05, 2022

Furnaces burn fuels such as oil and natural gas to create heat for your home. As a byproduct of this process, carbon monoxide is produced. Carbon monoxide is a potentially hazardous gas that can result in all sorts of health and breathing issues. Thankfully, furnaces are installed with flue pipes that vent carbon monoxide safely out of the house. But when a furnace breaks down or the flue pipes are loose, CO can get into your house.

While professional furnace repair in Rapid City can correct carbon monoxide leaks, it's also essential to be familiar with the warning signs of CO in your house. 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 make a plan to keep you and your family breathing easy.

What Is Carbon Monoxide?

Carbon monoxide is a gas composed of one carbon molecule and one oxygen molecule. When a flammable fuel like wood, coal or natural gas burns, carbon monoxide is released. It generally disperses over time because CO gas weighs less than air. But when your home or furnace doesn’t have sufficient ventilation, carbon monoxide can reach more potent concentrations. In fact, one of the reasons it's considered a harmful gas is because it doesn't have a color, odor or taste. Levels may rise without anybody noticing. This is the reason why it's crucial to install a carbon monoxide detector in your home. A CO detector is ideal for identifying evidence 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 especially popular due to its availability and low price, making it a well-known source of household CO emissions. Apart from your furnace, most of your home's other appliances that utilize these fuels will emit carbon monoxide, including:

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

As we mentioned above, the carbon monoxide the furnace emits is ordinarily released safely away from your home via 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 trapped in your home that it reaches concentrations high enough to induce poisoning.

What Can Carbon Monoxide Do to the Body?

Once carbon monoxide gas is breathed in, it can bind to the hemoglobin in your blood cells. This blocks oxygen from binding to the blood cells, getting in the way of your body's capacity to carry oxygen throughout the bloodstream. So even if there's plenty of oxygen in a room, your body wouldn't be able to absorb it. A shortage of oxygen impacts every part of the body. If you're exposed to dangerous concentrations of CO over a long period of time, you may experience the following symptoms:

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

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

These symptoms (especially the less serious symptoms) are easily mistaken for the flu due to the fact that they're so generalized. But if you have multiple family members experiencing symptoms simultaneously, it can be evidence that there's carbon monoxide in your home. If you believe you are struggling with CO poisoning, leave the house immediately and call 911. Medical providers can ensure your symptoms are managed. Then, call a trained 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 pinpoint the source and seal the leak. It could be any of your fuel-burning appliances, so it might take a while to find the right spot. Your technician will look for soot or smoke stains and other characteristics of carbon monoxide. In the meantime, here are some things you can work on to minimize CO levels in your home:

  1. See to it that your furnace is properly vented and that there are no obstructions in the flue pipe or somewhere else that could trap carbon monoxide gas in your home.
  2. Keep doors open between rooms when using appliances that create carbon monoxide, such as fireplaces, stoves or ovens, to improve ventilation.
  3. Try not to use a gas stove or oven to heat your home. These appliances would have to run around the clock, needlessly consuming energy and placing heavy strain on them.
  4. Never burn charcoal inside your home. Not only does it create a mess, but it will also emit carbon monoxide.
  5. Avoid using fuel-powered generators, pressure washers or other gas-powered tools in confined spaces.
  6. If you own a wood-burning fireplace, ensure 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 Rapid City. A broken or malfunctioning furnace is a likely source of carbon monoxide leaks.
  8. Most important, put in carbon monoxide detectors. These useful alarms notice CO gas much faster than humans will.

How Many Carbon Monoxide Detectors Should I Install?

It's vital to install at least one carbon monoxide detector on each level of your home, not to mention the basement. Concentrate on bedrooms and other spaces further away from the exits. This gives people who were sleeping adequate time to exit the home. It's also a great idea to set up carbon monoxide alarms near sources of CO gas, such as your kitchen stove or the water heater. And finally, especially large homes should think about installing even more CO detectors for consistent protection for the entire house.

Let's pretend a home has three floors, as well as the basement. With the aforementioned suggestions, you'd want to set up three to four carbon monoxide detectors.

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

Professional Installation Lowers the Risk of Carbon Monoxide

Protecting against a carbon monoxide leak is always more beneficial than repairing the leak after it’s been found. An easy way to avoid a CO gas leak in your furnace is by leaving furnace installation in Rapid City to licensed experts like Precision Mechanical. They understand how to install your preferred make and model to ensure optimum efficiency and minimal risk.