What You Should Know About Carbon Monoxide and Your Furnace

Carbon Monoxide PictureAs we head into the fall and winter months, the days get shorter and the temperatures drop. It’s time to start thinking about turning our thermostats up, and it’s a perfect time to think about furnace safety.

One of the most common dangers to be aware of as a homeowner is carbon monoxide. This odorless gas can cause injury and even death if it gets into your home. However, several safety measures can help to ensure that your furnace system is working properly and that carbon monoxide will not threaten the health of your family. Here’s a rundown of what you should know about carbon monoxide and your furnace from the team at Home Comfort Experts.

Related Read: Furnace Smells & Noises – Which Ones Should Concern You?

Risks of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

First, it’s important to understand the risks of carbon monoxide poisoning. Most people know that extremely high levels of carbon monoxide can result in death. According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America, it is reported that over 200 people per year die of carbon monoxide poisoning. This statistic is compiled by the U.S. Consumer Safety commission, but other agencies report statistics much higher.

In addition, the CSIA reports that over 10 thousand people a year are diagnosed with carbon monoxide related injuries. These injuries can manifest as cold or flu-like symptoms, chronic fatigue, headaches, nausea, and seasonal depression. They are mostly caused by low-level carbon monoxide poisoning. The results of this poisoning, over time, however, can cause permanent damage to the brain, heart, and other organs.

How Can Carbon Monoxide Get into Your Home?

Although the heating and cooling industry strives to provide safe products to consumers and does an admirable job at it, there are still some issues to be aware of so that carbon monoxide cannot become a problem in your home.

First, it’s common practice these days to seal off windows and other areas of homes where air typically gets in during winter months to cut down on cold drafts. While this is helpful for our comfort and our heating bills, it does not allow as much fresh air to circulate throughout the house and can cause stale air or poisonous gasses to linger because they are trapped in an airtight home. A furnace can become dangerous when the heat exchanger gets a crack and allows CO gas to escape into your home. The heat exchanger is the metal wall or tubing that is heated up when the burners are ignited. The heat exchanger is the only wall separating the toxic gasses in the flue from the supply of air in your home.

Related Read: Failed Heat Exchanger – What You Should Know

In addition, new, high-efficiency furnaces are replacing older ones. Again, this is a great improvement on our heating bills and is environmentally friendly, but many times these new systems use existing chimneys which were not designed for them. This can sometimes allow carbon monoxide to enter the living space. Make sure a reputable heating and cooling company installs your furnace.

Related Read: Buying a High-Efficiency Furnace – What to Know

Finally, many carbon monoxide problems result from chimneys which are clogged by soot, animal nests, or other debris. This does not give access for carbon monoxide released from burning wood to leave the home so it filters back down and can become dangerous.

How Can You Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?

The good news is that carbon monoxide poisoning is preventable. First, you should purchase a carbon monoxide detector from a local home improvement store. The detectors are not expensive, only about 20 to 30 dollars, but they will sound an alarm if carbon monoxide is present in your home. It is also important to have regular furnace system inspections by qualified experts to make sure that all components of your system are operational and safe.


If you have further questions about furnace safety, feel free to contact Home Comfort Experts and let us help you make it a warm and safe winter.