Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless and potentially deadly gas that is a produced by the combustion of carbon fuels such as oil, natural gas, propane, butane, coal, wood, and charcoal. A clean-burning appliance produces little carbon monoxide gas, but if the flue is partially blocked or a furnace or water heater is in need of service or is installed incorrectly can be a dangerous source of carbon monoxide gas.
Consider Installing a Carbon Monoxide Alarm in Your Home
Carbon monoxide poisoning is often misdiagnosed as flu or common cold symptoms. If these symptoms abate when you are away from the possible carbon monoxide source, you need to find out what the carbon monoxide levels are in this space. A detector is a good way to do this.
The appliance may have been safe last winter, but the flue could have become blocked and now allow flue gasses then be released back into the appliance, reducing oxygen to the burner. Without the proper mixture of oxygen and fuel, the flames will continue to burn, but carbon monoxide is produced in large quantities.
If the burner has a yellow flame that does not heat properly contact a qualified inspector or contractor to have the units checked thoroughly.
Make sure the inspector does a venting test for the furnace, water heater, and fireplace. Modern high-efficiency gas-fired furnaces vent through a flue pipe made of PVC plastic and vent mostly moist air. Make sure these pipes and joints do not leak.
Carbon monoxide alarms are not expensive and should be in every house. If the alarm sounds, contact the fire department to confirm these levels and to make sure no one is suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning. Find an inspector to determine what appliance caused these elevated levels of carbon monoxide.
Sometimes weather inversions can hold Carbon monoxide emissions from automobiles traveling near your home. Those could trigger the home's alarm. Do not take chances if the alarm goes off. Take your pets and leave the home until the area is cleared by the fire department.
It is better to be safe than sorry; many people die every year from carbon monoxide poisoning.