Our Pros Answer Your Questions About Carbon Monoxide

July 05, 2022

Furnaces ignite fuel like oil and natural gas to provide heat for your home. As a byproduct of this process, carbon monoxide is released. Carbon monoxide is flammable and hazardous gas that can trigger all sorts of health and breathing issues. Thankfully, furnaces are manufactured with flue pipes that release carbon monoxide safely outside of your home. But when a furnace breaks or the flue pipes are loose, CO could leak out into your house.

While professional furnace repair in Rapid City can resolve carbon monoxide leaks, it's also critical to be familiar with the warning signs of CO in your house. You should also install carbon monoxide detectors inside bedrooms, kitchens and hallways near these rooms. We'll share more information about carbon monoxide so you can take the appropriate steps to keep you and your family safe.

What Is Carbon Monoxide?

Carbon monoxide is a gas made up of one carbon molecule and one oxygen molecule. When a fuel like wood, coal or natural gas burns, carbon monoxide is created. It normally breaks up over time since CO gas weighs less than air. But when your home or furnace doesn’t have adequate ventilation, carbon monoxide will sometimes reach higher concentrations. What's more, one of the reasons it's considered a harmful gas is because it lacks color, odor or taste. Levels may climb without someone noticing. That's why it's crucial to put in a carbon monoxide detector in your home. It's capable of identifying faint traces 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 means natural gas, propane, oil, wood and coal. Natural gas is especially common due to its availability and low price, making it a regular source of household CO emissions. Besides your furnace, many of your home's other appliances that use these fuels will 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 creates is usually vented safely outside of your home through the flue pipe. In fact, most homes don't have to worry about carbon monoxide problems since they offer sufficient ventilation. It's only when CO gas is contained in your home that it passes concentrations high enough to cause poisoning.

What Does Carbon Monoxide Do to the Body?

Once carbon monoxide gas is in your lungs, it can bind to the hemoglobin in your blood cells. This prevents oxygen from binding to the blood cells, interrupting your body's ability to transport 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 impacts every part of the body. If you're subjected to harmful levels of CO over a long period of time, you might experience a variety of symptoms:

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

At even more potent levels, the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are even more severe. In high enough concentrations, it's capable of becoming fatal. Symptoms can include chest pain, confusion, agitation, seizures and loss of consciousness.

These symptoms (namely the less serious symptoms) are frequently 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 indicative that there's CO gas in your home. If you believe you have CO poisoning, leave the house right away and call 911. Medical experts can make sure your symptoms are treated. Then, get in touch with a professional technician to examine your furnace and HVAC ventilation system. They will identify where the gas is leaking.

How to Eliminate Carbon Monoxide

Once a technician has identified carbon monoxide in your house, they'll pinpoint the source and fix the leak. It might be any of your fuel-burning appliances, so it may take a while to find the correct spot. Your technician will be looking for soot or smoke stains and other signs of carbon monoxide. In the meantime, here's what you can do to reduce CO levels in your home:

  1. Make sure your furnace is adequately vented and that there aren't any clogs in the flue pipe or anywhere else that would trap carbon monoxide gas in your home.
  2. Keep doors open between rooms when you use appliances that create carbon monoxide, like fireplaces, stoves or ovens, to maximize ventilation.
  3. Try not to use a gas stove or oven to heat your home. These appliances would need to run constantly, needlessly consuming energy and putting heavy strain on them.
  4. Do not burn charcoal indoors. Not only could it leave a mess, but it's also a source of carbon monoxide.
  5. Try not to use fuel-powered generators, pressure washers or other gas-powered tools in confined spaces.
  6. If you own a wood-burning fireplace, verify that the flue is open when in use to allow carbon monoxide to leave the house.
  7. Take care of routine furnace maintenance in Rapid City. A damaged or defective furnace is a likely source of carbon monoxide leaks.
  8. Most important, install carbon monoxide detectors. These handy alarms recognize CO gas much quicker than humans can.

How Many Carbon Monoxide Detectors Do I Need?

It's important to set up at least one carbon monoxide detector on every floor of your home, including the basement. Focus on bedrooms and other spaces farther from the exits. This offers people who were sleeping enough time to evacuate safely. It's also a great idea to put in carbon monoxide alarms around sources of CO gas, such as your kitchen stove or the water heater. Lastly, especially large homes should think about installing even more CO detectors for uniform protection for the entire house.

Let's pretend a home has three floors, along with the basement. With the previously mentioned recommendations, you should set up three to four carbon monoxide detectors.

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

Professional Installation Minimizes the Risk of Carbon Monoxide

Preventing a carbon monoxide leak is always more effective than repairing the leak once it’s been located. A great way to avert a CO gas leak in your furnace is by passing on furnace installation in Rapid City to trained experts like Street Heating and Cooling. They understand how to install your ideal make and model to ensure optimal efficiency and minimal risk.