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Our Pros Answer Your Questions About Carbon Monoxide

July 05, 2022

Furnaces ignite fuel like oil and natural gas to produce heat for your home. As a byproduct of this process, carbon monoxide is released. Carbon monoxide is a common and hazardous gas that can lead to all kinds of health and breathing problems. Thankfully, furnaces are built with flue pipes that vent carbon monoxide safely outside of the house. But when a furnace breaks or the flue pipes are cracked, CO might get into the house.

While professional furnace repair in the Bay Area can resolve carbon monoxide leaks, it's also essential to recognize the warning signs of CO in your house. You should also set up carbon monoxide detectors in bedrooms, kitchens and hallways nearby these rooms. We'll offer up more info about carbon monoxide so you can make a plan to keep you and your family healthy.

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 created. It normally scatters over time because CO gas weighs less than air. But when your home or furnace doesn’t have adequate ventilation, carbon monoxide may reach more potent concentrations. What's more, one of the reasons it's regarded as a hazardous gas is because it doesn't have a color, odor or taste. Levels may increase without anyone noticing. This is the reason why it's important to put in a carbon monoxide detector in your home. A CO detector is ideal for identifying evidence of CO and notifying you via the alarm system.

What Produces Carbon Monoxide in a House?

Carbon monoxide is created when any kind of fuel is burned. This may include natural gas, propane, oil, wood and coal. Natural gas is particularly commonplace as a result of its prevalence and low price, making it a well-known source of household CO emissions. Aside from your furnace, many 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 mentioned above, the carbon monoxide a furnace generates is normally vented safely out of your home with the flue pipe. In fact, nearly all homes don't need to worry about carbon monoxide problems because they possess sufficient ventilation. It's only when CO gas is trapped 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, getting in the way of your body's capacity to carry oxygen in the bloodstream. So even if there's sufficient oxygen in a room, your body wouldn't be able to utilize it. A shortage of oxygen affects every part of the body. If you're in contact with harmful concentrations of CO over a long period of time, you may experience a variety 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 large enough concentrations, it's capable of becoming fatal. Symptoms include things like chest pain, confusion, agitation, seizures and loss of consciousness.

These symptoms (particularly the less dangerous symptoms) are often mistaken for the flu because they're so generalized. But if you have multiple family members experiencing symptoms concurrently, it might be evidence that there's carbon monoxide in your home. If you believe you have CO poisoning, exit the house right away and contact 911. Medical professionals can make sure your symptoms are managed. Then, contact a certified technician to examine your furnace and HVAC ventilation system. They should identify where the gas is leaking.

How to Remove Carbon Monoxide

After a technician has discovered carbon monoxide in your house, they'll pinpoint the source and seal off the leak. It might be any of your fuel-burning appliances, so it might take a bit of time to locate the right spot. Your technician will be looking for soot or smoke stains and other evidence of carbon monoxide. In the meantime, here are some things you can work on to reduce CO levels in your home:

  1. Make sure your furnace is correctly vented and that there are no obstructions in the flue pipe or anywhere else that could trap carbon monoxide gas in your home.
  2. Keep doors open between rooms when you use appliances that produce carbon monoxide, such as 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 around the clock, wasting energy and putting heavy strain on them.
  4. Don't burn charcoal indoors. Not only will it make a mess, but it can produce more carbon monoxide.
  5. Don't use fuel-powered generators, pressure washers or other gas-powered tools in enclosed spaces.
  6. If you use a wood-burning fireplace, verify that the flue is open when in use to permit carbon monoxide to vent out of the house.
  7. Stay on top of routine furnace maintenance in the Bay Area. A broken or malfunctioning furnace is a likely source of carbon monoxide emissions.
  8. Most important, set up carbon monoxide detectors. These helpful alarms notice CO gas much quicker than humans will.

How Many Carbon Monoxide Detectors Should I Install?

It's crucial to set up at least one carbon monoxide detector on every level of your home, as well as the basement. Focus on bedrooms and other spaces further away from the exits. This provides people who were sleeping adequate time to exit the home. It's also a smart idea to set up carbon monoxide alarms around sources of CO gas, including your kitchen stove or a water heater. And finally, particularly large homes should think about installing even more CO detectors for consistent protection for the entire house.

Suppose a home has three floors, along with the basement. With the aforementioned recommendations, you'll want to put in three to four carbon monoxide detectors.

  • One alarm could be installed close to the furnace and/or water heater.
  • The second alarm could 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 repairing the leak after it’s been discovered. One of the best ways to avoid a CO gas leak in your furnace is by trusting furnace installation in the Bay Area to licensed experts like Contra Costa Heating & AC. They understand how to install your chosen make and model to ensure maximum efficiency and minimal risk.