The importance of having routine maintenance checks for your furnace go beyond just making sure your home is heated during the winter months. Neglecting to keep up with proper maintenance can lead to dangerous problems such as carbon monoxide leaks.
Carbon monoxide, or CO, is a colorless and odorless gas byproduct of incomplete combustion. It is less dense than air, so carbon monoxide will rise in an enclosed room. When carbon monoxide builds up in a room, it becomes extremely toxic and causes a wide range of symptoms and can lead to death. According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as many as 500 people die from carbon monoxide poisoning every year in the United States, and thousands more require emergency medical treatment after exposure.
Any fuel-burning appliance in your home can produce carbon monoxide. The most common source of carbon monoxide inside the home comes from gas furnaces that have not been properly maintained. Although the production of carbon monoxide is normal in your furnace, the gas should be carried away through vents. If your furnace is clean and running efficiently, this should not be a problem. Buildup of carbon monoxide occurs when your furnace has not been cleaned and is burning inefficiently. Having your furnace maintained and inspected on a yearly basis is the best way to keep it functioning properly. This is especially important with older furnaces. Small cracks will appear over time in the combustion chamber of a furnace. These cracks are often too small to be identified with the naked eye. It is from these cracks that carbon monoxide will leak into your home.
As carbon monoxide builds in a room, symptoms that closely resemble those associated with the flu will begin to appear. Headaches, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, confusion and faintness are associated with carbon monoxide exposure. If these symptoms seem to go away when you leave your home, it could mean there are dangerous levels of carbon monoxide building up in your home. Do not ignore this, because it does not take much more to cause death. Open your windows and leave the house. Having your furnace checked by a professional is the best way to determine if your furnace is the source of the leak.
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