There’s a threat lurking in your home, and it shows up more often during winter. It’s an odorless, colorless gas that can become dangerous long before you know it’s there. Symptoms are so common that you can attribute them to just about anything. The headaches, nausea, dizziness, and tiredness may just be a common cold, or something far more serious. And by the time you notice symptoms, it can already be too late.
We’re talking about the poisonous gas carbon monoxide. You may know it as the gas emitted in car exhaust, but it can just as easily come from your boiler, gas furnace, generator, fireplace, or stove.
Of course, carbon monoxide shouldn’t come from your household appliances or heating systems. But that can happen when systems malfunction or don’t burn fuel properly. That’s why we take HVAC maintenance and safety checks so seriously. It’s more than something we do just to “tune up” your system. It can, in fact, save your life. Once you understand how important maintenance is, you’ll never skip this simple yearly checkup again.
Here’s what you need to know about this potentially deadly threat and how HVAC maintenance can ensure that you’re breathing safe, healthy air.
Is It The Flu Or Something Much Worse?
Since symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are so generic, it’s easy to panic every time you feel a little tired. But there are other ways to determine whether you’re simply under the weather, or if carbon monoxide is the culprit.
Symptoms of carbon monoxide exposure can be inconsistent. That’s because you need to be exposed to the gas to feel its effects. If you feel flu-ish in your home but symptoms seems to magically disappear the minute you walk outside, that’s a good indication that something is wrong with your indoor air.
If just about everyone in your household is suddenly experiencing symptoms, whether headaches, nausea, brain fog or something else, that’s another indication that there is a common source. If opening a window or stepping outside turns out to be the cure, call your contractor immediately and don’t go back into the house.
If symptoms persist or worsen, take stock of your environment. Check for carbon monoxide risk factors. And if you suspect something may be wrong, don’t hesitate to see a doctor. Carbon monoxide may not be immediately deadly, but it can still build up in your system over time, resulting in everything from poor memory and focus to heart and brain damage.
What Are The Risk Factors?
When it comes to protecting your indoor air quality and ultimately your health and well-being, there are some preventative measures you should take. They may sound simple, but they’re also easy to dismiss, which could result in quite a bit of harm. Never use your oven or gas range for heating your home. Not even during those winter power outages when even lighting a match seems like a better option than adding on another sweater.
Have chimneys and flues swept at least once a year to ensure there are no blockages.
Never use a charcoal grill indoors. If you’re lucky enough to have a generator, be sure it is at least 20 feet from windows, doors and vents when running. And don’t leave cars, motorcycles, lawn mowers or other gas-powered equipment running in a garage.
Finally, install carbon monoxide detectors on each floor and within each sleeping area in your home. Check them once a year just as you might your smoke detectors. They’re small, unobtrusive and generally inexpensive, but the return is invaluable.
How HVAC Maintenance Can Help
Whenever we visit a customer’s home, we perform a combustion air analysis, which is a series of tests to determine whether each heating unit is operating as it should. That means that the unit is functioning to factory required specifications, operating at peak efficiency, and of course operating safely. We check for any failures, faults or damage that can lead to a host of hazards, from fire to dangerous gas emission.
To test for carbon monoxide specifically, we take a small sample of exhaust gas from each unit to make sure that the oxygen and carbon monoxide percentages are in a healthy range. We also check the flue pressure, and gas valve inlet and outlet pressures to ensure that they are all running safely.
If this doesn’t sound like a DIY project, that’s because it’s not. Our technicians are trained to perform safety checks and to know what to look for to protect our customers and their families. By scheduling yearly system maintenance, you’re taking an important step to safeguard your home. Set a reminder to call your contractor at the same time each year, or better yet, ask for a maintenance contract. With a contract you can leave the reminding to your contractor, and have peace of mind knowing your system will be cleaned, checked for safety, and maintained as necessary.
What If There’s A Problem?
If we learn that a heating unit is producing a dangerous amount of carbon monoxide during one of our routine safety checks, our first task is to determine the cause. We’ll inspect the heat exchanger for micro cracks that could be releasing the gas, check for proper ventilation, or look for a blocked air stream.
When we find the problem, the next step is to determine the solution. It could be as simple as a repair, or as serious as replacing the unit.
Either way, carbon monoxide isn’t a concern to take lightly. High levels can affect you quickly, but even at low levels, it can accumulate and cause symptoms that are easily overlooked until they become permanently disabling or deadly.
Checking for levels of this hazardous gas is arguably the most essential safety check you can have done each winter. Regular maintenance ensures that your heating system is efficient, helps to extend its lifespan, and most importantly, keeps you safe.
It’s a small but vital step for the sake of yourself, your family, and your peace of mind.
If you’re interested in a system safety check or regular maintenance, contact us and let us know. You can also check our specials page for monthly offers on services that you may need. Our professionals are here to answer questions, and ensure your safety and comfort.