The Dangers of Carbon Monoxide Leaks from a Furnace

During the winter season, it is important to avoid any possible safety hazards from operating the furnace in your home.

Most furnaces are gas-burning and produce carbon monoxide (CO), a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas. The carbon monoxide from your furnace is mostly contained within the walls of its heat exchanger. The heat exchanger is the metal wall or tubing that is heated up when the burners are ignited.

In a unit that’s operating correctly, the gas is directed through your furnace’s flue pipe and safely vented out of your home. A clean, efficiently burning gas furnace produces very small amounts of carbon monoxide, but as the furnace continues to run it begins to burn dirtier which can create more CO gas. Also, for a number of different reasons, your furnace can develop a crack in its heat exchanger or flue pipes, causing a CO leak into your home’s air. If a CO leak were to develop from your furnace, you and your family could quickly be in danger.

How to avoid the dangers of carbon monoxide leaks from your furnace:

Get annual maintenance on your furnace. The most important thing you can do to prevent CO leaks from your furnace is to get annual maintenance from your local HVAC company. During annual maintenance, your technician will perform a number of preventative measures, including a full-system cleaning and an inspection during which they can identify and fix any potential problems with your unit.

Change your air filter regularly. One cause of carbon monoxide leaks is a backup of airflow to your heating system. To prevent this, make sure that you keep up with your filter changes throughout the heating season so that your furnace can breathe easy.

Ensure your furnace was installed properly. If your blower motor was installed incorrectly or your ductwork was improperly designed, your furnace could develop problems with venting carbon monoxide. Always work with a trusted, qualified HVAC company when you are having your heating system serviced or installed.

Install carbon monoxide detectors. Because carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas, most people will not know when it has built up in their home. CO detectors will warn you of high levels of carbon monoxide.

Know the signs of CO poisoning. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, at low CO concentrations people can experience fatigue or chest pain. At higher concentrations, people can experience impaired vision and coordination, headaches, dizziness, confusion, or nausea. Note that CO exposure can cause flu-like symptoms that clear up after leaving home. At high concentrations, CO exposure can be fatal.

Stay clean and tidy. Keep the area around your vents unobstructed by removing accumulated snow, ice, leaves, etc. around the opening.

Keep portable generators outside. Never use a portable generator inside homes, garages, crawlspaces, or sheds. Deadly levels of carbon monoxide can quickly build up in these areas and can linger for hours, even after the generator has shut off.

If you have any questions about carbon monoxide from your furnace, need your heating system serviced, or want to be sure it was properly installed in your home, contact the trusted HVAC professionals at 6 & Fix Heating & Cooling.