Preventing Carbon Monoxide Leaks in Your Furnace
While a furnace can keep your home toasty warm during the winter months, it is important to make sure you and your family do not fall victim to carbon monoxide poisoning due to leaks from your furnace. As a gas-burning appliance, a furnace produces carbon monoxide. In the event of a leak, the situation could become quite dangerous. Learning how to avoid such possible safety issues can keep your heater operating properly and protect your home.
Where Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Is Produced in a Furnace
Since furnaces are gas-powered, they feature a combustion process. Carbon monoxide occurs as a byproduct of that process. In most cases, carbon monoxide remains in the heat exchanger. When the unit operates properly, gas makes its way out of your home through the flue pipe.
Signs of Carbon Monoxide Leaks
In some cases, you may notice indications that there is a buildup of carbon monoxide levels inside of your house. These indications include:
- Brown or yellow stains around the furnace
- Stale or stuffy air
- Condensation on nearby windows
- Burning smell
It should be noted that in most cases, carbon monoxide is odorless, but some people have noticed an odor of something burning when, in fact, there is actually a carbon monoxide leak.
When Carbon Monoxide Becomes Problematic
Carbon monoxide can become a problem in a furnace if the unit develops cracks in the flue pipes or heat exchanger. Such cracks can occur for any number of reasons. In the event that a crack does occur, the result can be carbon monoxide leaking into the air in your house. When carbon monoxide levels become quite high, they can represent a serious risk to your health. In some instances, carbon monoxide poisoning can even be deadly. In fact, approximately 400 people are killed each year from carbon monoxide poisoning.
Mitigating the Risk of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
The first step to avoiding the possible risk of a leak inside of your furnace is to ensure that your heater is maintained annually. As part of an annual maintenance call, your HVAC technician will evaluate your furnace while also performing some preventative steps. Such steps include cleaning the entire system as well as performing a comprehensive inspection. This inspection will reveal whether there are any potential problems that might lead to leaks in the future.
When your furnace is not venting properly, this can also lead to air quality problems. One of the primary indicators that you might have a venting problem is a buildup of condensation on windows located near your furnace. In some cases, you might also observe rust on the front of the unit around the grill. Both window condensation and rusting on the furnace indicate that moisture is building up inside the heater. This should not happen and may indicate improper venting.
Keep in mind that the vents on your home’s furnace should remain open. Closing the vents is not only unhealthy, but it can actually result in a system backup and lead to possible leaks.
Testing for Carbon Monoxide Leaks
If you suspect that your furnace may have a carbon monoxide leak, it is important to call an HVAC professional right away. A professional technician can utilize electronic combustion testing equipment to determine whether your heating system may have a carbon monoxide leak and help you determine the cause of the leak as well as the best way to resolve the problem.
Change Your Furnace Filter
Additionally, it is important to change the filter on your furnace on a regular basis. Among the main causes of leaks within furnaces are airflow backups. To prevent such problems from occurring, it is important to make sure you are changing the filters on your unit regularly. Doing so will ensure your heating system is able to properly breathe.
Dirty filters can cause a restriction in the airflow of your furnace. Ultimately, this can lead to an airflow backup in your home’s heating system. When this occurs, it is difficult for air to make its way through your heater, which can lead to overheating and cracking of the heat exchanger. Furnace filters should be replaced approximately every one to three months.
Replacing Outdated Furnaces
If your current furnace is 20 years old or older, it is a good idea to consider replacing the system because older units may be more prone to experiencing leaks.
The Importance of Proper Installation
It is also imperative to make certain your furnace is properly installed. For instance, an improper design of the ductwork or even an incorrect installation of the blower motor can lead to problems with carbon monoxide venting. The best course of action is to ensure that you are working with a qualified HVAC professional when installing a new system or servicing your current unit.
Use Carbon Monoxide Detectors in Your Home
For additional protection in your home, it is also a good idea to install detectors in your residence. While you might think you would notice a carbon monoxide leak in your home, that is usually not the case because carbon monoxide is completely colorless and odorless. As a result, carbon monoxide levels can quickly build up inside of your house without you even being aware of it. A carbon monoxide detector will provide you with a warning that carbon monoxide is present in your home before the situation becomes dangerous.
Ideally, it is a good idea to have one carbon monoxide detector on each floor of your residence. When possible, try to situate detectors near each bedroom in your home. Additionally, it is important to position a detector either near the entrance to an attached garage or actually inside the garage. This is because a home can fill quickly with carbon monoxide gas from an idling vehicle.
Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Understanding the possible symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can also help to provide you with an early warning system if something may be amiss inside of your house. Oxygen in your body is displaced when breathing in carbon monoxide. Damage to your body’s muscles, brain, and organs can occur when oxygen levels reach extremely low levels. Some people have described it as feeling as though you have the flu. Possible symptoms include:
If you suspect someone in your home is the victim of carbon monoxide poisoning, it is important that the individual be moved quickly to a fresh area. Call for medical help immediately.
Long-Term Effects of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Studies have shown that some people who experience severe carbon monoxide poisoning may experience long-term complications, including:
- Memory loss
- Loss of vision
- Difficulty concentrating
If you need a heating system installed or serviced, or if you have questions about carbon monoxide leaks in your furnace, give C & C Heating & Air Conditioning a call today. Serving the metro Detroit area, we not only provide help with detecting and repairing carbon monoxide leaks in furnaces, but we also offer a variety of other services, including air filtration systems, UV lights, humidifiers, and more. Let us help you keep your home’s air safe.