It’s odorless, colorless, and tasteless, but carbon monoxide gas is definitely not harmless. Every year in the United States, more than 400 people die from accidental carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, while another 50,000 require emergency room treatment due to exposure to the gas. CO is a byproduct of combustion. Common potential sources include exhaust from internal combustion engines and even wood burning in a fireplace. Another possible danger point is your natural gas-fired furnace. Since nearly half of all U.S. homes utilize gas heating, it’s good to be aware of the dangers of carbon monoxide and how to prevent them.

In a well-maintained furnace, a relatively small amount of CO gas is produced inside the furnace’s combustion chamber. This gas is safely contained within the furnace’s heat exchanger, then vented through the exhaust duct. Furnace malfunctions may pose a danger, however, including if:

  • The furnace is producing excessive amounts of carbon monoxide.
  • CO gas is leaking out of the furnace before it is vented to the exterior of the house.

Here are ways to stay both safe and comfortable with your gas furnace this winter:

  • Schedule annual professional maintenance. There’s no DIY replacement for this checkup by a qualified HVAC technician. He’ll verify the safe functioning of the furnace burner and inspect the condition of the heat exchangerand the vent duct. The inspection also includes testing furnace exhaust gases for excessive CO levels that indicate improper combustion. The other good news is that annual professional maintenance also supports optimum energy efficiency and maximum heating performance, and it extends service life.
  • Maintain CO detectors. Make sure you have one carbon monoxide detector on each floor of the house, as well as one in a location at least 15 feet away from a gas-fired furnace. Change the batteries regularly per the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Change the furnace air filter regularly. At least every other month during heating season, install a new furnace air filter. This supports optimum furnace airflow, which ensures hazardous gases are properly exhausted. 

For more about preventing the dangers of furnace carbon monoxide, talk to the pros at Mowery Heating, Cooling and Plumbing.