Should I Be Worried About Carbon Monoxide in My Home?

December 8, 2020

You have every reason to worry about the presence of carbon monoxide (CO) in your home as it displaces oxygen in your body and leads to poisoning. Every year, more than 430 Americans die of carbon monoxide poisoning as a result of the incomplete combustion of fuels. The good news is that it’s possible to avoid CO poisoning by maintaining the fuel-burning appliances, improving the ventilation, and installing a carbon monoxide detector.

Therefore, knowing what you can do to avoid CO poisoning is extremely vital.

Signs of a Carbon Monoxide Leak

Carbon monoxide is a colorless and odorless gas that can kill you if inhaled at high levels. The following are the signs that you have a carbon monoxide leak in your home:

1. Gas Appliances Produce Yellow Flames
A blue flame indicates that your gas appliance is completing the combustion process and that all is well. It also means that the appliance has the right balance of oxygen and gas. Yellow or red flames indicate that there is a problem that causes incomplete combustion.

If your appliance produces an orange flame instead of a blue flame, the burner needs adjusting or cleaning. The orange color is a death warrant and a tell-tale sign that you are breathing high levels of carbon monoxide gas.

If oxygen is more than gas, the furnace will burn at lower temperatures and lead to wastage. However, if gas is more than oxygen, the excess gas won’t burn properly and will lead to soot formation. Soot burns in a yellow flame.

2. Soot Marks on Walls
Although carbon monoxide produces soot, it’s quite difficult to detect its presence since the gas is colorless and odorless. By the time you see smoke building up or soot marks forming on the walls, it means that you have been inhaling small amounts of carbon monoxide. If you are used to warming up your car engine at the garage, you might also notice these sooty marks.

During the instances of incomplete combustion, you will notice the stuffy and stale smells of something that’s overheating. Over time, soot will start to fall in fireplaces and collect on the flues.

Effects of Carbon Monoxide in Homes

If you inhale carbon monoxide gas for a long time, the worse the symptoms are likely to be. You can lose balance and memory within two hours.

1. How Different Levels of CO Affect Humans
Carbon monoxide inhibits the absorption of oxygen in your body. Since it has a half-life of about five hours, it can cause death when this time elapses. Conversely, you need to breathe carbon monoxide-free air for five hours to expel it from your lungs completely.

As the carbon monoxide is replaced by oxygen from the outdoors, you might not notice its presence if it does not exceed 20 ppm. However, if it increases to 70 ppm in a poorly ventilated room, you will start experiencing feelings of nausea, fatigue, and headaches.

If you don’t open the windows at this point or step out for fresh air, you will continue to breathe in high levels of carbon monoxide. Concentrations above 150 ppm lead to unconsciousness and death.

2. How CO Affects Pets and Indoor Plants
The lungs of cats and dogs are just as sensitive to contaminants as ours. As a result, pets need to live in a comfortable and well-ventilated environment. Unfortunately, they are likely to suffer since they can’t express any signs until they are ill. So, it’s upon the owner to protect pets from the risks of CO poisoning.

Carbon monoxide poisoning is preventable. You can reduce the risk significantly by using your cooking appliances wisely and improving your home’s ventilation.

How to Keep Carbon Monoxide Away From Your Home

Carbon monoxide is prevalent in homes that have kerosene heaters, charcoal stoves, gas ranges, and portable generators. Even people who run their car engines in the garages are likely to breathe carbon monoxide. It’s important to understand how you can protect yourself and your loved ones from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Since carbon monoxide levels of 20 ppm are acceptable, you can stay safe by reducing the amount of CO that is produced by the appliances to avoid exceeding the threshold. By keeping your gas appliances properly adjusted and replacing your unvented heater with a vented one, you can reduce the risk of CO poisoning considerably.

If you are using kerosene or charcoal heaters, install an exhaust fan and vent it to the outdoors. Fireplaces generate a lot of smoke, so you are going to need an open flue or chimney. If a water heater breaks down, it can generate lots of CO and raise the concentration levels quickly.

Ultimately, the best solution is to double the ventilation rate in the following ways:

1. Install Attic Vents and Fans
The concept of ventilation boils down to increasing the number of air exchanges per hour. Air exchange refers to air moving out through the vents and clean air moving into the room from outside. ASHRAE recommends that at least 0.35 air exchanges occur every hour in a room. This is equivalent to about a third of the air in one room, and it promotes healthy occupation.

However, if you are prone to carbon monoxide exposure, you need to fast track the process to avoid the risk of poisoning. Consider installing an attic vent or running a traditional ceiling fan.

2. Whole-house ventilation
Whole-house ventilation involves installing supply and exhaust fans as well as increasing the openings such as doors and windows. Adding an extra window is one of the most beneficial renovation projects that can improve ventilation significantly.

If your home lacks enough windows, it’s possible to add a new one to any of the existing walls. But first, you need to identify the position of key services such as electrical wiring, plumbing, and ductwork. If the local laws prohibit the addition of windows for structural reasons, consider upgrading the existing ones with better glazing.

You can install a whole house ventilation system that:

  • Maximizes the airflow to replace CO with oxygen from the outdoors
  • Expels fumes from all types of burners
  • Prevents backdrafting of the combustion gases
  • Expels pollutants from external living spaces
  • Dehumidifies indoor air
  • Filters pollen and dust

Contact an Expert

Every home should have an operational carbon monoxide detector within 10 feet of every room. Avoid installing them on the ceiling so that you can detect the gas before it rises. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions or get help with the installation from experts.

Although an air purifier can get rid of pollutants and allergens, you need a better solution to overcome the negative effects of carbon monoxide. Experts at Brennan Heating & Air Conditioning can help you to improve your indoor air quality by installing air purifiers.

Are you looking to protect your loved ones from the risks of carbon monoxide poisoning? Contact us at Brennan Heating & Air Conditioning, and we’ll install a whole-house ventilation system to enhance comfort and healthy living for your family.

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