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How to Avoid a Carbon Monoxide Problem in Your Home

A fire burning in a living room

We’ve used furnaces in some form or another to keep ourselves warm for millennia. In the very earliest days of man, we discovered that fire gave us warmth that made winters easier to survive and more comfortable. As we grew and our homes advanced, we learned that fire could have dangerous consequences when contained, so we built fireplaces with chimneys to allow fumes and smoke to escape. Today, furnaces have advanced to the point where we use cleaner and more efficient fuel, but the basic principle remains the same: a fuel-powered flame produces heat that’s then used to keep our home warm, while the harmful byproducts of the burning fuel escape through an exhaust system.

What makes this exhaust so dangerous? There are plenty of reasons, but by far the biggest one is a gas known as carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide has earned the nickname “the silent killer” because it is completely colorless, odorless, and tasteless: you have no idea when it’s around you. However, despite this it can be extremely dangerous or even lethal when ingested in high quantities. Any form of burning fuel produces carbon monoxide, and thus a furnace that burns gas or oil for fuel will produce this substance in your home. While your furnace is designed to contain this, there’s always the chance that some of this gas could escape.

Do you want to improve your carbon monoxide safety this winter? Here are a few tips you can follow to do just that.

Periodically Allow Fresh Air Into Your Home

One of the biggest reasons carbon monoxide becomes an issue in homes during winter is that homes remain closed up and shut so tightly that they don’t receive nearly enough fresh air. Heat is expensive, and for this reason most homeowners want to keep the doors and windows shut to trap it inside where they want it. This comes at a cost: in addition to the possibility of carbon monoxide buildup becoming dangerous from even a small leak, it could also contribute to strong household odors, dust and debris, and plenty of other indoor air quality issues that become commonplace over the winter months.

Perhaps the easiest solution to this issue is to simply open a few windows throughout your home for around 10 to 15 minutes each day. This will allow fresh air into your home, dramatically improving your indoor air quality. However, it will come at a cost: much-needed heat and humidity will both escape your home in this way. However, another solution you could choose to pursue is to install an air exchanger. Air exchangers allow fresh air from outside to enter your home without sacrificing the heat that you’ve paid for.

Install a Carbon Monoxide Detector

Carbon monoxide detectors should be absolutely mandatory in every home, but are extremely important in homes that depend on gas-burning or oil-burning furnaces. While your furnace is built to handle the carbon monoxide risk safely and effectively, leaks can develop in exhaust systems over time. Even a small leak could allow enough carbon monoxide into your home to cause an issue, and before you know it you could be facing a serious health problem unless you get to fresh air quickly.

If you have a carbon monoxide detector already installed, be sure to have it checked professionally every year before the start of your heating season. If your detector ever goes off at any point during the winter, do not ignore it. Open a window in your home and go outside right away—staying in your home could have devastating consequences at that point. Once outside, call 911 and report the issue straight away. Then call a heating and cooling professional and have them check over your system once you get the all-clear to re-enter your home. Never re-enter your home before you get this all-clear from emergency personnel, and do not turn on your heater again until you have it professionally repaired.

Have Your Furnace Inspected

Want to avoid the hassle of a carbon monoxide problem? A professional inspection and tune-up service for your heater can help you do just that. With a professional inspection, your technician will go over all of the most important aspects of your furnace, including your exhaust system that you depend on. They’ll seal small leaks and notify you if there is any significant wear and tear present that may require a more serious repair or total exhaust system replacement.

With this service, you’ll not only enjoy increased furnace safety all winter long, but you’ll also enjoy reduced carbon monoxide emissions as well. A more efficient furnace is one that burns less fuel. When you don’t need as much fuel to keep your home warm, you produce fewer emissions. When you produce fewer emissions, you produce less carbon monoxide. When you produce less carbon monoxide, your home becomes safer.

Schedule a tune-up service for your furnace by calling A-TEMP Heating, Cooling & Electrical at (503) 694-3396 today.