Carbon Monoxide: The Silent Killer Lurking In Gas Furnaces

Carbon Dioxide Chemical Model courtesy of Wikipedia

Carbon Dioxide Chemical Model courtesy of Wikipedia

Even the most energy efficient and modern furnace isn’t without a flaw. There is something that can go out from its natural gas burning and wreck havoc or diffuse its toxic effects on hemoglobin blooded animals and humans. Some HVAC literature calls carbon monoxide as the silent killer because it can cause near to fatal effects to the victim before the toxic gas is detected. Prevent CO buildup while you use a furnace. Know some tips below about prevention and treat CO with caution as much as you treat an AC live wire.

Carbon Monoxide and its toxicity


crossbones symbol of toxicity

crossbones symbol of toxicity

Carbon Monoxide is a made up of 1 carbon atom and the oxygen atom. It’s odorless and colorless and has the same density with air. It becomes toxic since it binds to hemoglobin protein and displaces oxygen. When this happens the victim is suffocated. What makes this poisonous gas horrible is even after the exposed person goes out to breath fresh air, still the gas remains in his bloodstream or still binded in his hemoglobin. With the prolonged exposure to CO contaminated air, CO displaces oxygen and chokes the victim until the fatality occurs. Measured in PPM or parts per million, CO can cause headaches at 400 PPM, death can occur within 2 hours of exposure, and at 12,800 PPM death can occur in minutes.


Symptoms of CO poisoning


CO binds easily in blood cell hemoglobin that even after going out indoors to avoid the source, the CO still sticks to the red blood cell. The reason – CO binds 210 times easily more than Oxygen. When this happens, the following symptoms occurs:

* Nausea
* Chest pain
* Seizures
* Dizziness
* Drowsiness
* Weakness
* Blurred Vision

How to prevent and avoid CO emissions

carbon monoxide smoke

Car exhaust which contains carbon monoxide image courtesy by Rube de Rijcke and Wikipedia

1. Avoid the following sources of CO:

* Inefficient furnace fuel burning
* Car exhaust
* Generators
* water heater
* Clothes dryer
* Indoor grilling
* Blocked chimney
* Cracked heat exchanger
* Second-hand smoke
* Boat engine
* Gas or firewood burners

2. When a furnace is burning inefficiently, it produces yellow flame instead of blue flame. Immediately call a technician and have it repaired.

3. Avoid grilling or barbecuing indoors

4. Install CO alarms that can detect even the slightest CO emission.  CO alarms may look like a fire alarm because of its circular feature but remember that it’s not a substitute to the fire alarm. CO works and functions as a gas detector, not a smoke detector.

5.Invest in CO detector resembling a handheld digital multitester.

6.Make indoors well ventilated as possible. Install chimney and prevent ice from forming in exhaust pipes from forming.

7. Refrain from using generator indoors

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