Indoor Air Quality: Carbon Monoxide in Homes

When you think of indoor air quality in homes, especially in the Southwest, you probably think first about dust. While particles of dirt, sand, and other debris in the air can be a nuisance and a health problem, carbon monoxide in your home can be a real killer. Without proper detection, you might not even know you are at risk until it’s too late. The combustion of carbon fuels produces carbon monoxide. In other words, anytime you burn wood, natural gas, or heating oil, carbon monoxide is a by-product. These fuels are made up of hydrogen and carbon, and when they burn, they react with oxygen to form carbon dioxide and water vapor. If they burn too fast, incomplete combustion results in the production of carbon monoxide instead of carbon dioxide, which worsens indoor air quality. Unless you’re on a submarine or a space ship, carbon dioxide isn’t dangerous. We breathe it in all the time, and plants need it to survive. However, breathing carbon monoxide is dangerous, because it is absorbed more easily by blood cells than oxygen. When carbon monoxide builds up in your home, your body absorbs carbon monoxide instead of the oxygen you need. Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas, which makes it difficult to detect. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include dizziness, weakness, and confusion. Severe symptoms might include nausea and vomiting. Over 400 people die and more than 4,000 people are hospitalized each year due to carbon monoxide poisoning, according to the Centers for Disease Control. If you have a fireplace or furnace in your home, your indoor air quality is at risk from carbon monoxide. The major cause of carbon monoxide in the home comes from an aging or poorly maintained furnace. A fireplace or wood-burning furnace can also lead to carbon monoxide buildup. What steps can you take to reduce the risk to you and your family? First, install a carbon monoxide detector that will alert you when the levels of carbon monoxide are getting too high. These are similar to smoke detectors and are readily available at hardware or home improvement stores. Second, have your furnace inspected on a regular basis to make sure it is running efficiently. An annual check-up is a good idea, especially as your furnace ages. If your furnace is more than 15 to 20 years old, you should consider replacing it with a more efficient model. If you are concerned about the risk carbon monoxide poses to the indoor air quality of you home, we are ready to help. Call Spencer Heating & Air today for all your HVAC system needs.