Our Pros Answer Your Questions About Carbon Monoxide

July 05, 2022

Furnaces burn fuel like oil and natural gas to produce heat for your home. As a complication of this process, carbon monoxide is produced. Carbon monoxide is a common and hazardous gas that can cause a lot of health and breathing issues. Fortunately, 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 home.

While professional furnace repair in Wisconsin Rapids can fix carbon monoxide leaks, it's also crucial to be familiar with the warning signs of CO in your home's air. You should also set up carbon monoxide detectors inside bedrooms, kitchens and hallways near these rooms. We'll offer up more facts about carbon monoxide so you can take steps to keep you and your family breathing easy.

What Is Carbon Monoxide?

Carbon monoxide is a gas consisting of one carbon molecule and one oxygen molecule. When something such as wood, coal or natural gas ignites, 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 more potent concentrations. As a matter of fact, one of the reasons it's viewed as a hazardous gas is because it has no color, odor or taste. Levels can rise without anyone noticing. That's why it's vital to install a carbon monoxide detector in your home. A carbon monoxide detector is capable of recognizing the presence of CO and notifying your family using the alarm system.

What Produces Carbon Monoxide in a House?

Carbon monoxide is released when any form of fuel is ignited. This includes natural gas, propane, oil, wood and coal. Natural gas is particularly common due to its availability and low price, making it a regular source of household CO emissions. Aside from your furnace, many of your home's other appliances that use these fuels can emit carbon monoxide, like:

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

As we outlined earlier, the carbon monoxide a furnace creates is usually released safely outside of your home via the flue pipe. In fact, nearly all homes don't have to worry about carbon monoxide poisoning because they offer 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?

After carbon monoxide gas is in your lungs, it can bind to the hemoglobin in your blood cells. This stops oxygen from binding to the blood cells, getting in the way of your body's capacity to transport oxygen through the bloodstream. So even if there's adequate oxygen in a room, your body wouldn't be able to utilize it. Insufficient oxygen affects every part of the body. If you're exposed to harmful amounts of CO over a long period of time, you might experience a number of symptoms:

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

At even more potent levels, the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are even more detrimental. In heavy enough concentrations, it's capable of being fatal. Symptoms include things like chest pain, confusion, agitation, seizures and unconsciousness.

These symptoms (namely the less severe signs) are easily mistaken for the flu due to the fact that they're so generalized. But if you have different family members experiencing symptoms concurrently, it may be evidence that there's a CO gas leak in your home. If you suspect you are suffering from CO poisoning, exit the house immediately and call 911. Medical providers can ensure your symptoms are controlled. Then, contact a certified technician to check your furnace and HVAC ventilation system. They will uncover where the gas is escaping.

How to Eliminate Carbon Monoxide

After a technician has confirmed there's carbon monoxide in your house, they'll identify the source and seal off the leak. It could be any of your fuel-burning appliances, so it can take a bit of time to uncover the correct spot. Your technician can look for soot or smoke stains and other signs of carbon monoxide. In the meantime, here's what you can do to minimize CO levels in your home:

  1. Verify that your furnace is adequately 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 using appliances that emit carbon monoxide, including fireplaces, stoves or ovens, to improve ventilation.
  3. Avoid using 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. Don't burn charcoal inside. 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 have a wood-burning fireplace, ensure the flue is open when in use to allow carbon monoxide to vent out of the house.
  7. Take care of routine furnace maintenance in Wisconsin Rapids. A broken down or malfunctioning furnace is a common source of carbon monoxide problems.
  8. Most important, put in carbon monoxide detectors. These helpful alarms recognize CO gas much quicker than humans do.

How Many Carbon Monoxide Detectors Should I Install?

It's crucial 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 plenty of time to get out. It's also a great idea to put in carbon monoxide alarms near sources of CO gas, like your kitchen stove or your water heater. And finally, particularly large homes should look at extra CO detectors for consistent coverage of the entire house.

Let's say a home has three floors, along with the basement. With the aforementioned recommendations, you should put in three to four carbon monoxide detectors.

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

Professional Installation Lowers the Risk of Carbon Monoxide

Preventing a carbon monoxide leak is always more beneficial than fixing the leak after it’s been located. A great way to prevent a CO gas leak in your furnace is by passing on furnace installation in Wisconsin Rapids to qualified experts like Rapids Sheet Metal Works Inc. They understand how to install your chosen make and model to ensure optimum efficiency and minimal risk.