Our Pros Answer Your Questions About Carbon Monoxide

July 05, 2022

Furnaces combust fuels including oil and natural gas to generate heat for your home. As a result of this process, carbon monoxide is released. Carbon monoxide is flammable and hazardous gas that can trigger a lot of health and breathing complications. Luckily, furnaces are manufactured with flue pipes that ventilate carbon monoxide safely away from the house. But if a furnace malfunctions or the flue pipes are damaged, CO can get into your house.

While quality furnace repair in Des Moines can resolve carbon monoxide leaks, it's also crucial 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 nearby these rooms. We'll offer up more facts about carbon monoxide so you can take the appropriate 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 a flammable fuel like wood, coal or natural gas burns, carbon monoxide is produced. It generally dissipates over time as CO gas is lighter than air. But when your home or furnace doesn’t have adequate ventilation, carbon monoxide could reach more potent concentrations. As a matter of fact, one of the reasons it's regarded as a dangerous gas is because it has no color, odor or taste. Levels can increase without someone noticing. That's why it's crucial to install a carbon monoxide detector in your home. It's ideal for identifying faint traces of CO and notifying everyone in the house using the alarm system.

What Emits Carbon Monoxide in a House?

Carbon monoxide is released when any type of fuel is burnt. This includes natural gas, propane, oil, wood and coal. Natural gas is especially commonplace due to its availability and low price, making it a well-known 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 mentioned before, the carbon monoxide your furnace emits is ordinarily removed safely away from your home with the flue pipe. In fact, the majority of homes don't have to worry about carbon monoxide accumulation since they offer sufficient ventilation. It's only when CO gas is contained in your home that it grows to concentrations high enough to cause poisoning.

What Does 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 blocks oxygen from binding to the blood cells, disrupting your body's capacity to transport 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 affects every part of the body. If you're exposed to hazardous quantities 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 steeper levels, the side effects of carbon monoxide poisoning are even more detrimental. In high enough concentrations, it's capable of becoming fatal. Symptoms include chest pain, confusion, agitation, seizures and loss of consciousness.

These symptoms (namely the less serious symptoms) are often mistaken for the flu given that they're so generalized. But if you have multiple family members experiencing symptoms concurrently, it may be a sign that there's carbon monoxide in your home. If you believe you have CO poisoning, get out of the house right away and contact 911. Medical experts can ensure your symptoms are managed. Then, call a certified technician to examine your furnace and HVAC ventilation system. They will uncover where the gas is escaping.

How to Eliminate Carbon Monoxide

When a technician has identified carbon monoxide in your house, they'll pinpoint the source and seal the leak. It may be any of your fuel-burning appliances, so it can take some time to find the right spot. Your technician will look for soot or smoke stains and other characteristics of carbon monoxide. In the meantime, here's what you can work on to limit CO levels in your home:

  1. See to it that your furnace is adequately vented and that there are no clogs in the flue pipe or somewhere else that would trap carbon monoxide gas in your home.
  2. Keep doors open between rooms when you use appliances that emit carbon monoxide, including fireplaces, stoves or ovens, to maximize ventilation.
  3. Try not to use a gas stove or oven to heat your home. These appliances would have to run constantly, squandering energy and placing heavy strain on them.
  4. Never burn charcoal indoors. Not only does it leave a mess, but it's also a source of carbon monoxide.
  5. Don't use fuel-powered generators, pressure washers or other gas-powered tools in confined 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 Des Moines. A broken or faulty furnace is a likely source of carbon monoxide leaks.
  8. Most importantly, install carbon monoxide detectors. These handy alarms detect CO gas much earlier 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, as well as the basement. Concentrate on bedrooms and other spaces farther from the exits. This provides people who were sleeping sufficient time to exit the home. It's also a smart idea to put in carbon monoxide alarms around sources of CO gas, like your kitchen stove or a water heater. And finally, very large homes should think about installing additional CO detectors for consistent protection for the entire house.

Let's say a home has three floors, as well as the basement. With the above suggestions, you should set up three to four carbon monoxide detectors.

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

Professional Installation Minimizes the Risk of Carbon Monoxide

Preventing a carbon monoxide leak is always better than repairing the leak after it’s been located. One of the best ways to avoid a CO gas leak in your furnace is by passing on furnace installation in Des Moines to licensed professionals like Heartland Heating & Cooling. They understand how to install your chosen make and model to ensure optimal efficiency and minimal risk.