The Dangers Of Carbon Monoxide(CO) In Your Home Are Real!
Carbon monoxide poisoning can kill without warning, as your family sleeps.
This information is to inform every homeowner what they need to know; what it is and how it occurs. (And yes, all of this to impress upon homeowners the importance of having a Furnace Tune-Up).
Here's what the Center For Disease Control states: Each year, more than 400 Americans die from unintentional CO poisoning, more than 20,000 visit the emergency room and more than 4,000 are hospitalized due to CO poisoning. Fatality is highest among Americans 65 and older.
Your Best Defense Against CO Is Knowledge About The Danger.
What it is:
Carbon Monoxide(CO) is a poisonous gas often referred to as a silent killer, and for good reason. It’s odorless and tasteless. When it’s released into the air, homeowners often can’t tell. Thousands of people across the country become sick from carbon monoxide each year, and tragically, hundreds will die from it.
Did you know that carbon monoxide detectors often do not sound the alarm until the carbon monoxide levels are so high that you that you could die before the alarm goes off?
A Little Chemistry:
Carbon Monoxide(CO) vs. Carbon Dioxide(CO2) - What's the difference. Most common fuels have carbon (C) and hydrogen (H) locked up and ready to heat. Add a consistent ignition source and some oxygen and we have combustion. Breaking apart the carbon-hydrogen bond produces heat and releases carbon and hydrogen to find a new bond. On a good day, this will produce water (H20), carbon dioxide (CO2) and a bunch of hot air. This means that the carbon had to find some oxygen. To do this, the combustion products must stay hot, and oxygen has to be available. If there is insufficient oxygen, the carbon has no choice but to remain carbon or become carbon monoxide (CO).
With Winter, comes dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Improperly operating furnaces and boilers can cause many serious problems, but the most serious is a system that is not venting flue gases out of your home properly. This is caused by a plugged or collapsed chimney or a crack or hole in a heat exchanger, carbon monoxide poisoning can kill everyone in your home. It is an odorless, colorless gas that kills most people while they are sleeping. They simply never wake up.
Signs or Symptoms.
Individuals in the home could be exposed to lower levels of carbon monoxide poisoning and be completely unaware of the risk. Symptoms are similar to those of food poisoning or the flu, resulting in shortness of breath, mild nausea or headaches. Moderate levels of exposure can result in death over a period of time. High levels can be fatal within a few minutes.
Beyond installing detectors, additional precautionary measures should be taken to help in protection. It is highly advisable to yearly have the entire home heating system checked by a qualified technician.
How you may feel if you are being poisoned by CO
CO poisoning can be difficult to detect, because its symptoms are the same as those of many other common ailments. For example, you may experience headaches, tiredness, difficulty thinking clearly and feeling sick. Sometimes it may feel as though you have food poisoning or that you are coming down with flu.
What is a heat exchanger and why that's important.
The heat exchanger is one of the most important components in your furnace. It’s what creates warm air. Every time your furnace turns on, the heat exchanger becomes red hot and expands. Over its lifetime, the heat exchanger expands and contracts thousands of times, and eventually it can crack. Also, condensation exhaust from the furnace may collect, causing severe rusting and holes in your heat exchanger over time.
When a heat exchanger fails, it can emit the poisonous gas carbon monoxide. When cracks or holes form in a heat exchanger, it may release carbon monoxide, a deadly poisonous gas, into a home.
Potential Problems - Things not to do!
Consumers should always carefully read instructions before using space heaters or other small heat-generating appliances. Safety guidelines are clearly explained and should be followed. Power generators for emergency power should only be used outside or in a well ventilated garage. Using any appliance (grills, camp stoves, gas ovens) other than the way it was originally intended within an enclosed area is potentially dangerous and possibly deadly. Particular attention should be directed toward any vehicle or appliance that is vented to the outside to release dangerous levels of the gas. It is critical to keep those vents unblocked and completely open.
Never run a car engine, lawn mower, snow blower or other combustion engine in a closed area like your garage or basement. (In the winter time if you warm up your car always make sure the garage door is open.)
Never use a gas oven to heat your home, even for a short time.
Never sleep in a room heated by a gas or kerosene space heater that does not have proper venting.
Never use any gasoline-powered engines such as mowers, weed trimmers, snow blowers, chain saws, small engines or generators in enclosed spaces.
Never burn charcoal in your home, garage, work shed, recreational vehicle or other enclosed area.
Inspections you can do:
In addition to professional preventive maintenance on a potentially CO-producing appliance, timely inspections should be performed by the homeowner to identify signs of possible CO problems. Look for the following conditions, and if detected, have a professional service technician fully examine the unit for safety and continued use.
These are RED FLAG WARNINGS:
- Rusting or water streaking on vent/chimney.
- Loose or missing furnace panel.
- Sooting on internal or attic spaces.
- Loose or disconnected vent/chimney connections.
- Debris or soot falling from chimney, fireplace, or appliance.
- Loose masonry on chimney.
In addition, there are signs that might indicate improper appliance operation which include:
- Decreasing hot water supply.
- Furnace unable to heat house or runs constantly.
- Sooting, especially on appliances.
- Unfamiliar or burning odor.
- Increased condensation inside windows.
PREVENTION AND CONCLUSIONS
Many lives could be saved and much disability prevented if citizens could learn to recognize and prevent the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning. Preventive efforts such as checking furnace flues, chimneys, and vents could help to alleviate the hazard. The use of good common sense in not using open flames, ovens and other appliances not intended for heating, could reduce the number of carbon monoxide related incidents.
It is also recommended that homeowners have their complete heating systems checked before every heating season. Only by being aware of the peril, and understanding the nature of the hazard, can we help to prevent unnecessary exposures to deadly carbon monoxide.
Precautionary Measures Routinely at the beginning of every heating season home owners should have their fuel burning appliances checked by a qualified technician. Appliances deteriorate with time and can be a health risk to those who live in the home. Besides having your appliances inspected, those using fuel-burning appliances should have their homes equipped with carbon monoxide detectors to provide added peace of mind.
Keep in mind this is only 1 benefit of our Furnace Tune-Up - The most life threatening.