Carbon monoxide, or “CO”, is an odorless, colorless gas which leads to the deaths of more than 400 Americans each year, and leads to ER visits for another 20,000!

CO is produced anytime fuel is burned, whether in cars, trucks, stoves, grills, fireplaces or furnaces. When fuel is burned indoors, such as a car in an enclosed garage or a furnace in your home, CO can build up and poison you if it doesn’t have a way to vent out.

Because of the danger, this is definitely a situation we want to avoid. Let’s look at why CO is so dangerous, and some ways you can minimize the risks of CO poisoning.

Why Is CO So Dangerous?

CO acts a lot like oxygen once it’s inside your body. It enters your lungs, then goes into your bloodstream, where it attaches to red blood cells. The red blood cells oddly prefer to attach to CO, and will do so even if oxygen is present. The blood is supposed to supply your cells with oxygen, but they begin to suffocate when CO is brought instead.

Most people don’t realize CO is poisoning them, because you can’t see or smell it, and the symptoms are similar to the flu: headaches, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain and confusion. Once enough CO is inhaled, it will cause you to pass out, and if you aren’t given fresh air, death can occur.

How Do I Lower The Risk Of CO Poisoning?

Regular Maintenance

At H&S Heating and Air Conditioning, we provide furnace maintenance plans to help keep you and your family healthy. We generally suggest setting up a furnace check-up in the fall, where we can clean and adjust blower components and make sure the system is getting proper airflow to prevent the buildup of CO. We also inspect the heat exchanger, and we can come by regularly to replace your furnace filter which is also a leading cause of CO buildup in the home.

Whoever you work with, make sure they are certified by NATE (North American Technician Excellence,) the leading nonprofit certification program for the HVAC industry (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning.)

CO Detector

As a precaution, a battery-operated or battery backup CO detector should be installed where it is easy for you to hear, such as near the master bedroom. This is separate from a smoke detector.

Be sure to replace the batteries every time you change your clocks in the spring and fall, and the detector itself should be replaced every five years.

If you have an emergency situation where you believe CO is building up in your home, please remove all family members and pets from your home to get fresh air, then call us for 24-hour emergency service.

Chimney? Clean It Annually

Lastly, if you have a chimney attached to your furnace system, buildup can cause CO to backup into your home instead of exiting through the chimney. It’s important to have your chimney cleaned annually for your safety.

If you have any other questions about furnaces or CO, reach out at any time.