Avoiding the Hazards of Carbon Monoxide in your home
Every year as the weather turns colder, Pennsylvania homeowners boost their thermostats to take the chill out of the air.
It is something we don’t think much about, a furnace’s exhaust system and the chimney and connector pipes are always ready to provide you with a safe and effective service. The convenience and safety of today’s home heating systems is something we have become used to as the oil and gas heating industries have achieved impressive safety records. But did you know that an average of over 200 people across the US die annually from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by venting problems in their heating systems? These statistics come from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission but other agencies have estimated actual numbers are much higher – between 2,000 and 4,000 deaths a year.
Additionally, there over 10,000 cases of carbon monoxide related injuries that are diagnosed each year. Symptoms occurring from prolonged, low levels of carbon monoxide can mimic the common winter cold or other seasonal ailments such as: headache, dizziness, nausea, fatigue, and even depression. Many cases of carbon monoxide poisoning are not detected until permanent and subtle damage to the brain heart and/ or other organs and tissues has occurred. Diagnosis is difficult and prevention is the best way to avoid being poisoned.
A regular chimney system inspection and annual chimney maintenance can prevent carbon monoxide poisoning!
What are the Causes of Heating System Problems?
Why are we hearing about carbon monoxide poisoning on the news lately? How can a home heating system that has been used safely for years, become deadly?
• Modern houses are made more air-tight. Homeowners aware of the high cost of heating old drafty homes, seal up windows, doors, and other areas of air infiltration using modern weather stripping, high efficiency windows and insulation. The air flow within a house is depleted and when furnaces and boilers are starved of the oxygen they need to burn fuel completely, carbon monoxide is produced.
• Today’s manufacturers have designed high technology heating appliances that save us money and conserve natural resources that, in effect, decrease environmental pollution. These new high efficiency furnaces when hooked up to existing chimney flues often do not perform at an optimum level. This difference in performance creates a condition that allows toxic gases to enter more easily into our living spaces.
• Other system problems can be: damaged or deteriorated flue liners, debris clogs in the passageway, soot build-up, animals or nests obstructing the chimney flue.
Burning gas and oil to produce household heat in vented heating systems produces dangerous fumes that should never be allowed to leak from the chimney into your living space. A chimney also creates a draft or flow of air that provides the proper air and fuel mixture for efficient operation of the heating appliance used in homes.
Common Chimney Problems to Avoid
Chimneys and connector pipes are subjected to the following and require care and maintenance:
• animal invasions
• accumulation of nest materials and debris.
If you have a chimney that burns oil :
Oil flues need to be cleaned and inspected annually. Soot may build up on the interior wall of the chimney liner which will result in in efficient operation and an eventual blockage. Once the flue is blocked your heater can be damaged and you may experience a back puff of fine black soot throughout the home.
If you have a chimney that burns gas :
Natural gas is a clean burning fuel, but today’s high efficiency gas furnaces produce fumes that are cooler and contain high levels of water vapor, which can cause condensation. These vapors also contain chlorides picked up from house supplied combustion air. Chimney flues are now subjected to more corrosive conditions than they were in years past. Many gas appliances have been retrofitted to use chimneys that once served oil furnaces. If your chimney liners are made of terra-cotta (fired clay used in chimney construction), they can slowly flake off under corrosive conditions. The combination of water-laden gas vapors mixing with old oil soot deposits can speed the flaking process, and this debris will block your chimney by building up at the bottom of your flue.
Any of these conditions can obstruct the flow of toxic fumes escaping your house through the chimney. Carbon monoxide is one of those fumes that could be leaking into your living space. These conditions could occur over a long period of time or within one season. This is why it is very important to keep your chimney well maintained. Many of these problems can be invisible to a homeowner who does not know what to look for. An experienced chimney repair company, like Antrim’s Complete can assess your chimney and keep everything in check.
Preventing Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the National Fire Protection Association, and the American Lung Association are some of the organizations and agencies that recognize the importance of annual heating system inspections and maintenance in preventing carbon monoxide poisoning. If your boiler or furnace is kept tuned and maintained and connected to a venting system or flue that is correctly sized, structurally sound and clean and free of blockages, your home will operate efficiently and most importantly, safely. We suggest a carbon monoxide detector on every level of your house – better safe than sorry!