If you depend on a furnace to keep you comfortable during the frigid months of winter, you probably enjoy how dependable and efficient this type of heating is. Furnaces carry a number of advantages over other types of heaters—they can operate in sub-zero temperatures, they’re energy-efficient, and their lack of moving parts means they’re generally extremely reliable. However, with that being said they do have one serious risk: because they generate heat by burning fuel, they create a gas known as carbon monoxide, which can be fatal if ingested in high quantities.
What Is Carbon Monoxide?
Unlike carbon dioxide which is a common part of the air we breathe around us, carbon monoxide is a gas which is extremely harmful to humans and animals. This gas is an unfortunate side effect of the combustion process. When you burn fuel to create heat, you also produce exhaust, or remaining gasses which are produced through the reaction known as combustion. Carbon monoxide is one of these gasses.
However, carbon monoxide is uniquely known as the “silent killer” of gasses. Unlike other gasses in furnace exhaust, carbon monoxide is colorless, odorless, and tasteless, which means it’s invisible, impossible to smell, and can’t be detected by any human senses. In fact, most of the time those who face a serious carbon monoxide problem don’t even realize it until it’s too late.
How to Contain Carbon Monoxide
First, we need to get something out of the way: this is not intended to scare you out of using your furnace or make you rip your furnace out of your home in favor of a different type of heating. Furnaces have been commonplace in homes in some form for thousands of years, and even to this day they’re still some of the best heating equipment we have. In fact, they’re safer today than they’ve ever been because we’ve built our furnaces to be able to contain the carbon monoxide gas. When your furnace creates it, it’s vented into the atmosphere outside where it reacts with oxygen to become carbon dioxide which plants turn back into oxygen.
However, this does mean you need to be alert and recognize that there is a possibility of carbon monoxide entering your home from your furnace. Under normal use, this won’t happen, but over time seals can wear out and small leaks can form which can allow exhaust to escape from its containment and proliferate throughout your home. The two easiest ways to prevent this are simple: have your furnace inspected each and every year, and always make sure your furnace exhaust remains sealed and in good condition.
Your exhaust system takes the gasses from your combustion chamber and vents them into the atmosphere through an exhaust vent which extends from your furnace out through a small pipe in your roof. However, if this exhaust pipe shifts, settles, or becomes otherwise misaligned, a small leak can form which allows carbon monoxide into your home. When you have your furnace professionally inspected, your inspector will take a close look at your exhaust vent to make sure it’s leak free and in good condition, and advise you of any repairs that need to be made for added security.
Always Use a Carbon Monoxide Detector
Finally, even after a thorough inspection and maintenance service, you always want to make sure your home remains protected and you get ample warning if your furnace begins to leak carbon monoxide. That’s why investing in a quality carbon monoxide detector is absolutely invaluable. Carbon monoxide detectors are extraordinarily sensitive to this dangerous gas, and will alert you immediately if they notice even slightly elevated levels of this dangerous gas.
If your carbon monoxide detector near your furnace goes off, you’ll know you have a leak, and you can evacuate your home before the air becomes too dangerous to breathe. If it does, shut off your furnace immediately, open windows in your home to allow fresh air to circulate through, and call a professional to have your furnace inspected right away. This is an emergency which needs to be immediately attended to for your safety and continued use of your furnace.
If you have a problem with your furnace or you simply need to schedule a safety inspection, pick up the phone and call the experts from Arco Comfort Air at (216) 230-5117 today.