December 8, 2020

When thinking through common home threats in Hanover, most people tackle the visible threats first. After all, it’s much easier to set up a home security system to protect against potential intruders that you can see than it is to install security measures for a threat that you can’t see. When protecting your home from threats, though, it’s sometimes the threats that you can’t see that pose the biggest risk. That’s why at Beltway Air Conditioning & Heating, we recommend taking these unseen threats seriously, such as the threat of carbon monoxide poisoning.

What Is Carbon Monoxide?

The chemistry behind carbon monoxide is simple. Carbon monoxide is a gas whose molecules are each made from one carbon atom and one oxygen atom. Similar to other carbon-based gases, carbon monoxide is colorless, odorless and tasteless. This means that carbon monoxide is impossible for humans to detect, even in high concentrations. Carbon monoxide occurs naturally but can also be produced through the burning of fossil fuels.

How Is Carbon Monoxide Produced?

As mentioned, carbon monoxide is produced when fossil fuels are burned. Specifically, carbon monoxide is released when incomplete combustion occurs. Since oxygen is a necessary ingredient for combustion to occur, complete combustion results in the production of carbon dioxide, representing the extra oxygen atom that is added to the molecule. However, if combustion occurs in a low-oxygen environment, carbon monoxide will be produced.

How Does a Furnace Produce Carbon Monoxide?

The burner on a gas furnace from Beltway Air Conditioning & Heating produces a large amount of flame in a small area. Thus, although the burner is quite efficient at combustion, there is typically some carbon monoxide that is produced during this combustion process. Fortunately, any carbon monoxide that is produced is typically vented through the furnace’s exhaust vent to allow it to escape into the outside air.

However, if the exhaust vent isn’t properly maintained, some of the carbon monoxide that is produced can escape into your home. Additionally, a furnace can produce carbon monoxide if there is a problem with the burner. If the burner is dirty or damaged, it can result in an incorrect mix of oxygen and gas, resulting in an increase in the amount of carbon monoxide that is produced.

What Are the Effects of Carbon Monoxide Exposure?

In small concentrations, carbon monoxide generally won’t cause any ill effects. However, as the concentration increases, you will begin to experience the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning. Some carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms include headaches, dizziness, nausea, blurred vision and even loss of consciousness.

These symptoms occur because the carbon monoxide replaces the oxygen in your lungs, leading to low blood-oxygen levels that impede your body’s normal functioning. If you aren’t able to escape to fresh air quickly enough, carbon monoxide poisoning can result in death, meaning that carbon monoxide is something that you should take very seriously.

How to Avoid Exposure to Carbon Monoxide

Given the serious side effects of carbon monoxide exposure, it’s important to avoid exposure at all costs. The most important way to do this is to have Beltway Air Conditioning & Heating inspect and maintain your heating system.

A routine inspection will include a check of the burner and exhaust vent, plus a test of the draft inducer. The draft inducer is a component that’s mounted in your system’s exhaust vent and pulls air into the exhaust vent. This helps create negative pressure to ensure that any exhaust gases, including carbon monoxide, are safely vented out of your home.

Early Warning Is Key

While it’s vital to keep your heating system properly maintained, it’s also important to have a way to alert yourself if carbon monoxide finds its way into your home. That’s why carbon monoxide detectors are a must-have item for every home. These devices work similarly to smoke detectors in that they monitor the air in your home 24/7 for any sign of danger.

If a detector senses carbon monoxide, it will beep loudly to alert you to leave your home immediately. This beeping is loud enough to wake you up if a carbon monoxide release happens at night. Since a carbon monoxide release can happen anywhere at any time, it’s important to have detectors on every level of your home. Make sure that the alarm can be heard in every bedroom. If your detector goes off, but you aren’t experiencing symptoms, it’s still important to exit your home, as a carbon monoxide detector is designed to alert you of a problem before you become incapacitated.

What to Look for

Although it’s impossible to detect carbon monoxide by itself, there are some signs you can look for that can indicate a possible carbon monoxide leak. Of course, the pros at Beltway Air Conditioning & Heating do not recommend substituting these signs for the protection that a carbon monoxide detector can provide since these signs don’t always show up.

If you notice brownish-yellow stains around the exhaust vent or elsewhere on your heating system, it could be a sign of a carbon monoxide leak. Since carbon monoxide is released largely due to incomplete combustion, these stains serve as evidence that such combustion is occurring. Stale air, the smell of other gases, such as natural gas, and unusually high levels of condensation on windows can also serve as signs that carbon monoxide is lurking in your home.

How to Help

Even if you have your furnace properly serviced by Beltway Air Conditioning & Heating, you may still experience issues with carbon monoxide in your home. That’s because carbon monoxide can be released from other sources in addition to heating systems. For example, if you have a fireplace in your home, you need to make sure that the chimney isn’t blocked and that there’s a good upward draft at all times.

Also, if you have an attached garage, make sure to never leave your car running in the garage, as that could allow carbon monoxide to enter your home, even if the garage door is open. Finally, if you have a gas stove, pay close attention to it, as dirty burners can create the conditions that are necessary for carbon monoxide to be released.

What to Do

If there is a carbon monoxide release in your home, the first thing you must do is to evacuate your home quickly. Fresh air is the only cure for overexposure to carbon monoxide. Once everyone in your family is safe, you’ll want to call the fire department so that they can enter your home with respirators and try to stop the carbon monoxide at its source. After the threat has been cleared, you’ll need to call Beltway Air Conditioning & Heating or the appropriate service company for the affected appliance to ensure that the problem is taken care of for good.

Your Safety Is Our Priority

Every employee of Beltway Air Conditioning & Heating has your safety as their top priority. That’s why we work hard to properly maintain and repair your furnace. Of course, we can also repair and maintain your air conditioner or install new HVAC equipment when you have a need in the greater Annapolis, MD, area. We can also install heat pumps, custom ductwork and indoor air quality control equipment. With an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau, you can be sure that you’ll be treated with respect when you contact us at Beltway Air Conditioning & Heating today.

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