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carbon monoxide hotspots

Carbon Monoxide Hotspots at Home

By Tobias Roberts Rise Writer
Jun 15, 2020

Carbon monoxide in your home is never a good thing. Because it has no odor, color, or taste, it is impossible to detect it simply by our senses. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), over 6,000 people were killed by unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning in their homes from 1999 to 2012. Senior citizens over the age of 85 were those experiencing the highest death rates due to carbon monoxide poisoning, most likely due to improper maintenance of fuel-burning devices in the home.

How Is Carbon Monoxide Produced?

The production of carbon monoxide occurs whenever any material burns. Homes with fuel-burning appliances are much more likely to suffer from potentially dangerous carbon monoxide issues. High levels of carbon monoxide can lead to a loss of oxygen in the body, causing flu-like symptoms, long-term respiratory problems, and can even be fatal.

How Do You Prevent Carbon Monoxide in Your Home?

Placing several carbon monoxide detectors throughout your home is the first and most crucial step toward avoiding potential problems caused by carbon monoxide buildup. Next, know where to find the potential carbon monoxide hotspots in your home. Learning about ways to remedy potential issues - before they become dangerous - is another vital aspect of overall home safety.

Below, we look at four different potential carbon monoxide hotspots in a typical home and offer a simple solution to avoid carbon monoxide buildup.

Gas Fireplace

Gas Fireplaces and Stoves

Many modern homes have foregone the traditional wood-burning fireplace and have converted to the more practical, though not necessarily more efficient, gas fireplace. It certainly is nice to have a gas fireplace that can produce a roaring fire with the simple push of a button. These fireplaces don't have a chimney; they rely only on the air inside your home for combustion. 

Ventless gas fireplaces built after 2002 come with factory-installed carbon monoxide detectors that will shut off when carbon monoxide levels grow too high. If you have an older model than 2002, you might want to consider upgrading to a direct vent gas fireplace, which adds another layer of protection. Using ventless fireplaces for too long can lead to carbon monoxide buildup in your home. In addition, regular maintenance on your gas fireplace will help make sure that no dangerous leaks are developing.

Gas Stove

Are Fumes From a Gas Stove Dangerous?

Gas ranges and gas cooktops are appliances that should be properly vented to the outside. Increasing data shows that cooking with gas is detrimental to a home's indoor air quality, as shown in this study, released in 2020 from UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. Like fireplaces, these appliances should receive regular inspection and maintenance.

Gas Water Heater Home Depot
Gas Water Heater. Photo Credit: Home Depot

Water Heaters

Another potential carbon monoxide hotspot in the home is your water heater. Most homes have their water heater hidden away in a closet or other seldom-used space. Because of this, many people rarely service their water heater as long as it reliably producing a steady stream of hot water for our showers and sinks.

However, water heaters use tremendous amounts of fuel. If they are not working correctly, they can produce large amounts of carbon monoxide. Most water heaters have a lifespan of between 8 and 12 years. It would be best if you considered having an expert do a yearly checkup on your water heater after five years.

If you are looking to get away from a gas-powered water heater, heat pump water heaters are very efficient. They could save you thousands of dollars over their lifetime!

Carrier Gas Furnace New_Berlin_Heating
Carrier Gas Furnace. Photo Credit: New Berlin Heating

Gas and Oil Burning Furnaces

During the long winter months, your furnace probably stays running non-stop to keep your home warm and comfortable. However, Furnaces can contribute to carbon monoxide buildup in the home through both leaks and improper combustion. For natural gas-powered furnaces, a mostly yellow flame in color might signal that fuel is not burning completely, thus leading to excess carbon monoxide.

Moreover, the combustion chamber and internal heat exchanger inside your furnace will most likely develop cracks or corrosion over time. They will need to be inspected regularly. Switching to a high-efficiency gas furnace that uses condensing technology significantly lowers exhaust gasses. You can consider installing a heat pump.  Heat pumps are another upgrade that will make your home more energy-efficient while protecting against carbon monoxide buildup.

Dryer Vent Lint Dryer Vent Cleaner
Dryer Vent Lint. Photo Credit: Dryer Vent Cleaner

Ensure Proper Venting

The improper functioning of fuel-burning devices in your home can cause excess amounts of carbon monoxide to be released. It is good to know that carbon monoxide buildup in the home can be caused by improper ventilation. Remember, any combustion in a home will release some amount of carbon monoxide. Most household appliances, furnaces, and fireplaces release negligible amounts that are not harmful to human health (under 50 parts per million). However, if your home ventilation system is blocked, those normal carbon monoxide levels will quickly begin to rise.

Fortunately, you can easily avoid this by periodically checking and cleaning the external vents. The clothes dryer vent to your home should be cleaned of lint periodically. And, if your home has a chimney, it's usually a good idea to check once a year to make sure that no birds have built a nest or any other blockage exists, which could reduce proper ventilation.

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute a product endorsement however Rise does reserve the right to recommend relevant products based on the articles content to provide a more comprehensive experience for the reader.Last Modified: 2021-07-23T13:44:18+0000
Tobias Roberts

Article by:

Tobias Roberts

Tobias runs an agroecology farm and a natural building collective in the mountains of El Salvador. He specializes in earthen construction methods and uses permaculture design methods to integrate structures into the sustainability of the landscape.