Carbon Monoxide (CO) and you

Carbon Monoxide  (CO) is a poisonous gas that is colorless, odorless, tasteless and otherwise completely not noticeable. When you breathe in CO it combines with your blood and then prevents your blood from absorbing oxygen.

CO is produced from burning fuels like gasoline, wood, natural gas and propane, tobacco and even paper. Anything in your home that has a flame or started with a flame produces carbon monoxide. The most common sources of CO exposure are cigarette smoke and vehicle exhaust. If you have a tuck under garage or live on a busy road CO can build up in your home.

Another very common CO emission are any gas burning appliance that is improperly adjusted, poorly vented or poorly maintained. Let’s address each one.

Improperly adjusted appliances can create soot and corrosion. If you see a predominately orange and/or yellow flame that is an indication of a problem.

Poorly vented appliances cause soot and corrosion, blockage, cracks and holes. Most poorly installed venting creates excess moisture to drip back down to the burners creating those cracks and holes that emit CO. If flames actually roll out of the furnace door or around a pot on your stove top immediately turn off that appliance and request service.

Poorly maintained appliancesare what I see the most. Dust accumulation becomes a hard shell on igniters and burners that eventually prevent the proper firing of the appliance. If you have excessive moisture or frost on the inside of your windows; soot on your ceilings or walls, soot on the front of your fireplace or glass shield; soot on the inside door of your furnace are all a sign of poorly maintained appliances.

Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide poisoning are divided into 3 categories; Mild, Medium and Severe.

Mild Exposure is a slight headache, vomiting, blurred vision, fatigue, nausea or flu-like symptoms; all of which are cured by going outside and breathing fresh air.

Medium Exposure is persistent drowsiness that doesn’t feel right, severe headache, confusion and rapid heart rate. Get outside and call 911 for immediate medical attention.

Severe Exposure escalates to convulsions, unconsciousness, cardiac/respiratory failure and death.

If you suspect you have CO in  your home ventilate the area by opening windows. If you have an attached garage open the door. Shut off all your fuel-burning appliances. If your are feeling any symptoms get your family and pets out of the house and seek medical attention. If you use natural gas or propane contact them through their emergency number and have them check all your gas burning appliances. If you’re burning other fuels contact a professional technician who will have the proper tools to detect where the leak is coming from.

Prevention is the best medicine. Here is a simple list to keep you safe.

Contact C&C HVAC, Inc to inspect all your fuel burning appliances annually.

Do not leave your vehicle running in the garage! Even if you leave the garage door open outside air colliding with exhaust air will vent in, not out.

Do not operate fuel-burning appliances in small, tightly sealed areas.

Do not use your charcoal grill in your home or your garage. Do not store in your garage until you are certain the briquettes are completely dead.

Make sure all chimneys are clear of debris. This includes your pvc and class b flues. Birds, mice, squirrels etc. are attracted to the warm air emanating from these openings. They will build nests resulting in blocked emissions and the only place they can go in back into your house.

Make sure all appliances are burning a predominately blue flame.

Do not vent your dryer into your house. This is just crazy! Even if your dryer is electric the amount of debris that ends up in your furnace causes breakdowns.

If your furnace breaks down please don’t heat your house with your oven, range top or dryer. This could be a lot more unpleasant than being cold for a few hours.

Make sure all fresh air inlets are clear and not blocked. That grey flexible tubing running in your mechanical room should not have a towel stuffed in it. Fresh air is vital to the operation of your furnace and water heater.

Look for signs that your house is not getting enough fresh air by too much moisture or frost on windows, soot on the walls or ceilings etc.

Last but not least, purchase enough CO detectors. If you have a spouse who spends more time sleeping on the couch or recliner than put a CO detector in that room. Don’t forget it’s the law!

Information paraphrased from the following resource. MDH. Please click on MDH for more information regarding CO.

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