Hvac repair tips: what you need to know about carbon monoxide and your hvac system
If your home has gas-fired appliances like a stove, dryer, furnace, etc. you’re at risk for exposure to carbon monoxide. This invisible and odorless gas is produced by appliances and engines that burn fuel like natural gas, kerosene, coal, wood, or gasoline.
Extremely high levels of carbon monoxide can be lethal, but breathing in just a little can make you feel unwell. Studies show that long-term exposure to low levels of carbon monoxide may have long-term health consequences, too. So when you buy a new furnace, the combustion (i.e. heat-producing function) is designed to be self-contained, with exhaust gases vented to the atmosphere – and away from the interior of your home.
However, machines like furnaces are prone to wear and tear. A malfunction in your furnace’s combustion can cause carbon monoxide leaks – especially true with neglected furnaces, regardless of age.
How to prevent carbon monoxide build-up
1. Never use gas-powered engines in enclosed locations.
Your garage is a prime spot for carbon monoxide build-up: it’s an enclosed space and often used as storage for gas-powered engines and appliance-like generators, lawn mowers, and cars.
It’s easy to make the mistake of starting those gas-powered machines in the garage before moving them outside. But the results can be dangerous, even lethal, if the carbon monoxide level builds to an unhealthy range.
Remember that virtually all appliances that “burn” a fuel source produce carbon monoxide. The key to keeping them safe is minimizing the concentration of carbon monoxide by adding fresh air ventilation — and keeping the appliance operating at its peak performance.
2. Never use charcoal grills indoors.
We all know that charcoal grills are not meant to be used indoors. Still, some homeowners may grill in a garage and just leave the door open, but this is dangerous as the rest of your garage can accumulate high levels of carbon monoxide that could migrate inside your home.
Similarly, grilling under an awning can also result in a carbon monoxide build up. Although a large part of the carbon monoxide from the grill is released safely, the awning can capture enough amounts of it to become dangerous, so there’s a risk of exposure to the grill chef – and the gas could enter your home. Be alert to enclosed or unventilated areas when grilling, and ALWAYS grill outdoors.
3. Have your wood stoves, fireplaces, and chimneys annually inspected.
A wood stove or fireplace can also be a source of carbon monoxide if the flue vent is blocked, improperly installed, or if the stove is used incorrectly. This is one important reason to have your fireplace, wood stove, or chimney inspected annually.
Importance of regular furnace maintenance
Your furnace is generally a hands-off home appliance, requiring only temperature adjustment or turning it on or off as needed. But it’s best to be a proactive homeowner by keeping your furnace operating at its peak performance with twice-yearly inspections and tune-ups.
Ask your trusted HVAC contractor about a service agreement to keep your furnace running safely and efficiently. A licensed contractor can keep your system operating at its best with regular maintenance and safety inspections – and give you peace of mind!