Understanding carbon monoxide

By November 20, 2014 May 4th, 2016 Boiler, Furnace, Heating

November 20, 2014

Carbon monoxide, also known as CO, is called the “Invisible Killer” because it’s a colorless, odorless, poisonous gas. It is produced by the incomplete burning of various fuels, including coal, wood, charcoal, oil, kerosene, propane, and natural gas. Because CO is odorless, colorless, and otherwise undetectable to the human senses, people may not know that they are being exposed. Knowing the symptoms of CO poisoning is very important, but the symptoms mimic the flu, so knowing CO poisoning apart from the flu is very important. It could be CO poisoning if:

  • You feel better when you are away from your home
  • Several people in the home gets sick at the same time
  • The family members who are most affected spend the most time in the home
  • Symptoms occur or get worse shortly after turning on a fuel-burning device (furnace, oven, fireplace)
  • Indoor pets also appear ill (pets symptoms may appear first)
  • Symptoms appear at the same time as signs of inappropriate ventilation, maintenance, or operation of fuel-burning devices

Some people are at a greater risk for CO poisoning, If you have any of the following conditions you could be in more danger:

  • respiratory conditions (such as asthma and emphysema)
  • cardiovascular disease
  • anemia
  • individuals engaging in strenuous physical activity
  • the elderly, children and fetuses

Having a carbon monoxide alarm is very important to have in your home, you should know where it should be installed and how to operate it. To make sure that the reading on your carbon monoxide detector is accurate, Most manufacturers will recommend installing near the ceiling, because carbon monoxide is close to the same weight as air, it most often comes from fuel burning appliances that will emit warm carbon monoxide. Being warmer, it will tend to rise above the air. Since carbon monoxide is a by product of fuel burning appliances, they should not be installed directly above or beside these appliances because they may give an inaccurately high reading.

Carbon monoxide is measured in parts per million, often abbreviated as PPM, if you don’t know how many parts per million is safe and how much is dangerous a good baseline for what is safe, 35 parts per million is the maximum concentration allowed by federal law for continued exposure over an 8 hour period. At 200 parts per million, you will experience mild headaches, dizziness or nausea after two to three hours. 400 parts per million is where it starts to really get dangerous, it becomes life threatening after 3 hours of exposure. It gets drastically worse from here, with 1600 parts per million causing death in one hour and 10,000 parts per million causing death in under 10 minutes.

One of the important things to remember when checking your carbon monoxide level is that a high number is not always an immediate indicator of a leak. For levels up to 200 parts per million, it is a good idea to turn off all appliances that produce carbon monoxide, open all the windows and leave your home for a few hours and check the levels again. Sometimes it could be something as little as a near by smoker as cigarettes produce carbon monoxide. If your readings are continuously above 35 PPM, even if your CO alarm isn’t going off you are at a very high risk and immediate action should be taken before any serious health concerns arise.

Before any serious harm can come to you or your family, give High Performance Heating, Cooling & Hydronics a call and schedule a heating system service to ensure that your family is protected and no ones health is at risk. We are available 24/7 for any emergencies, 585-426-3004.

Author Matt Nicodemus

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