Carbon Monoxide: Safety, Awareness and Prevention
In 2015, the CDC reported that almost 400 people fell victim to unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning, with the winter months accounting for over 1/3 of the total deaths. But where does this colorless, odorless gas come from and how can we be aware of its presence?
Carbon monoxide is a product of combustion – the chemical reaction that occurs when fuel and an oxidant combine. Because this process is essential to produce heat in a home or office, your heat exchanger within the air handler performs this task all winter long when your HVAC system is set on its heating mode. This explains why there are far more carbon monoxide poisonings in the winter months than the summer months. Additionally, other sources within a home include water heaters, clothes dryers, fireplaces and gas stoves.
What's the Problem?
While homes are with flues that vent carbon monoxide outside, sometimes there are poor flue connections, blocked air vents that abate the gas from leaving or other issues. In particular, a common problem seen stems from the heat exchanger. Because combustion results in oxidation, heat exchangers, made of metal, often rust over time. The longer the heat exchanger rusts, the weaker the metal gets, eventually giving way to cracks or holes. When this occurs, some carbon monoxide will stay inside the home.
What are the Symptoms?
Carbon Monoxide (CO) acts fast. When inhaled, carbon monoxide begins to displace the oxygen in your bloodstream, which starves your organs of the needed oxygen, resulting in suffocation. While there’s not much time to detect carbon monoxide poisoning, normal symptoms include:
Loss of consciousness
What's the Solution?
The simplest solution is to install a carbon monoxide detector in your home or office. These detectors are extremely affordable and will alert you when CO is discovered inside the premise. If you are still concerned about your air quality, don’t hesitate to reach out to the licensed pros today.