Invisible killer

Carbon Monoxide in Your Home

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Carbon monoxide could be leaking in your home right now, and unless you have a detector installed, you wouldn’t even know that it was happening until you were poisoned. Yet, every day you run your furnace, boiler, or hot water tank, risking a carbon monoxide leak. To prevent something like this from happening to your family, you need to be aware of what causes this type of leak, and what you can do to protect yourself.

Furnace and Boiler Heat Exchangers

Gas fired furnaces and boilers use a heat exchanger to heat the air or water that is used to heat your home. In a furnace or boiler, combustion is created when the gas mixes with air and ignites the burners inside the unit. The burners then transfer the heat to the heat exchanger. Every heat exchanger has two sides. One side is in contact with the harmful combustion gases, and the other side is in contact with the air or water that is going to be circulated through the home. This way the combustion gases like carbon monoxide is never in contact with the air that we breathe. We are protected by the barrier created by the heat exchanger. In a furnace, there will be a draft inducer motor that will direct the toxic gases outdoors.

If there is a problem with the heat exchanger or the venting system, you could have carbon monoxide building up in the air inside your home. If a heat exchanger becomes old or rusted, it is common to find cracks in it. If the heat exchanger has a crack, the combustion gases will be allowed to seep through the barrier and into the air in the home.

The venting system in your home could also be the source of your carbon monoxide problem. Your home will either use the chimney or a direct vent to filter the bad gases outdoors. One of the biggest problems found is inadequate drafting. This is caused by the vent being too large or too small for the size of your furnace or boiler. If this happens, carbon monoxide could begin to build up inside the unit and will eventually leak out into the home.

What You Should Do

The first thing you need to do is install carbon monoxide detectors. Combustion produces many gases but carbon monoxide is the most dangerous, but is easy to detect if your home has carbon monoxide detectors. These should be placed near the furnace or boiler. You should also consider installing them near the bedrooms in your home. Most carbon monoxide poisonings happen during the night while everyone is asleep, so it is best to protect your family members where they sleep.

You should have your furnace or boiler cleaned and checked yearly, and the heat exchanger examined for leaks. You will need a certified technician for this job. Only a well-trained serviceman will know how to properly clean your furnace or boiler and how to inspect a heat exchanger effectively for flaws.

Finally, you need to have the ventilation system checked. Chimneys are known to crumble or become clogged with debris over time, and this needs to be cleaned out and repaired as soon as possible. The sooner you catch a problem with the ventilation, the sooner your family will be safe to breathe the air in your home once more.

If the Alarm Goes Off

If the carbon monoxide alarm goes off there are a few things you need to do:

  1. Evacuate the home
  2. Call the fire department
  3. Open any windows or doors that are easily accessible
  4. If anyone is experiencing nausea, vomiting, fatigue, or headaches they should be looked at by a doctor as soon as possible
  5. Do not reenter the home until you are given permission to do so by the fire-fighter or a professional service technician

Even if the responder doesn’t detect CO in your home, you need to still proceed with caution. Shut down any appliances that run on gas and have them serviced as soon as possible.


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