Our Pros Answer Your Questions About Carbon Monoxide

July 05, 2022

Furnaces combust fuels such as oil and natural gas to produce heat for your home. As a byproduct of this process, carbon monoxide is released. Carbon monoxide is a potentially hazardous gas that can lead to all sorts of health and breathing complications. Luckily, furnaces are designed with flue pipes that ventilate carbon monoxide safely away from your house. But if a furnace malfunctions or the flue pipes are loose, CO could leak into your house.

While quality furnace repair in Cedar Rapids can fix carbon monoxide leaks, it's also critical to recognize the warning signs of CO in your home's air. You should also install carbon monoxide detectors inside bedrooms, kitchens and hallways nearby these rooms. We'll offer up more info about carbon monoxide so you can take the appropriate steps to keep you and your family healthy.

What Is Carbon Monoxide?

Carbon monoxide is a gas composed of one carbon molecule and one oxygen molecule. When a fuel like wood, coal or natural gas combusts, carbon monoxide is released. It usually breaks up over time as CO gas weighs less than air. But when your home or furnace doesn’t have enough ventilation, carbon monoxide can reach elevated concentrations. What's more, one of the reasons it's regarded as a dangerous gas is because it has no color, odor or taste. Levels could climb without someone noticing. This is why it's important to install a carbon monoxide detector in your home. A carbon monoxide detector is ideal for identifying faint traces of CO and alerting you using the alarm system.

What Emits Carbon Monoxide in a House?

Carbon monoxide is released when any form of fuel is burned. This means natural gas, propane, oil, wood and coal. Natural gas is especially commonplace due to its wide availability and affordable price, making it a regular source of household CO emissions. Apart from your furnace, lots of your home's other appliances that use these fuels may 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 emits is usually removed safely out of your home with the flue pipe. In fact, most homes don't need to worry about carbon monoxide accumulation since they offer proper ventilation. It's only when CO gas is confined in your home that it reaches concentrations high enough to cause poisoning.

What Can Carbon Monoxide Do to the Body?

Once carbon monoxide gas is in your lungs, it can adhere to the hemoglobin in your blood cells. This keeps oxygen from binding to the blood cells, interrupting your body's capacity to transport oxygen in the bloodstream. So even if there's sufficient oxygen in a room, your body wouldn't be able to absorb it. Insufficient oxygen impacts every part of the body. If you're in contact with hazardous quantities of CO over a long period of time, you could 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 high enough concentrations, it's capable of being fatal. Symptoms include chest pain, confusion, agitation, seizures and loss of consciousness.

These symptoms (especially the less serious ones) are frequently mistaken for the flu given that they're so generalized. But if you have different family members suffering from symptoms simultaneously, it might be a sign that there's CO gas in your home. If you suspect you have CO poisoning, leave the house immediately and contact 911. Medical experts can ensure your symptoms are treated. Then, call a trained technician to check your furnace and HVAC ventilation system. They will determine where the gas is escaping.

How to Eliminate Carbon Monoxide

When a technician has confirmed there's carbon monoxide in your house, they'll find the source and seal the leak. It may be any of your fuel-burning appliances, so it might take a while to locate the correct spot. Your technician can look for soot or smoke stains and other signs of carbon monoxide. In the meantime, here are some things you can work on to reduce CO levels in your home:

  1. Verify that your furnace is appropriately vented and that there are no blockages in the flue pipe or anywhere else that would trap carbon monoxide gas in your home.
  2. Keep doors open between rooms whenever you use appliances that emit carbon monoxide, like fireplaces, stoves or ovens, to improve ventilation.
  3. Never use a gas stove or oven to heat your home. These appliances would have to run night and day, needlessly consuming energy and adding heavy strain on them.
  4. Never burn charcoal inside. Not only could it make a mess, but it can produce more carbon monoxide.
  5. Try not to use fuel-powered generators, pressure washers or other gas-powered tools in compact spaces.
  6. If you use a wood-burning fireplace, make sure the flue is open when in use to enable carbon monoxide to leave the house.
  7. Stay on top of routine furnace maintenance in Cedar Rapids. A damaged or malfunctioning furnace is a common source of carbon monoxide leaks.
  8. Most important, put in carbon monoxide detectors. These handy alarms notice CO gas much faster than humans can.

How Many Carbon Monoxide Detectors Should I Install?

It's crucial to install at least one carbon monoxide detector on each level of your home, not to mention the basement. Prioritize bedrooms and other spaces farther from the exits. This offers people who were sleeping adequate time to evacuate safely. It's also a good idea to set up carbon monoxide alarms around sources of CO gas, such as your kitchen stove or a water heater. And finally, very large homes should consider even more CO detectors for consistent coverage of the entire house.

Let's say a home has three floors, including the basement. With the aforementioned recommendations, you'll want to put in three to four carbon monoxide sensors.

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

Professional Installation Reduces the Risk of Carbon Monoxide

Avoiding a carbon monoxide leak is always better than resolving the leak once it’s been discovered. One of the best ways to avert a CO gas leak in your furnace is by leaving furnace installation in Cedar Rapids to certified professionals like Ilten's Incorporated. They recognize how to install your preferred make and model to ensure optimal efficiency and minimal risk.