Carbon Monoxide

Carbon Monoxide

To help keep your gas appliances operating safely and efficiently, The Natural Gas Company or a licensed heating contractor or plumber should check your gas appliances every year. Not performing annual maintenance may result in inefficient appliance operation, and in some cases dangerous exposure to carbon monoxide.

What causes carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas that is formed when carbon-based fuels, such as kerosene, gasoline, propane, natural gas, oil, charcoal or wood, are burned with inadequate amounts of oxygen, creating a condition known as incomplete combustion. In the case of home gas appliances, this can be caused by improper installation, poor maintenance, or other appliance misuse or failure.

Carbon monoxide poisoning

When incomplete combustion occurs in your home’s gas appliances, carbon monoxide is produced, and this can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning of you and your family. The early stages of carbon monoxide poisoning produce unexplained flu-like symptoms, such as headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath and mental confusion. Since carbon monoxide displaces the oxygen in the blood, prolonged exposure to carbon monoxide can lead to death by asphyxiation.

Signs that may indicate the presence of carbon monoxide

  • A yellow, large and unsteady gas appliance burner flame (with the exception of decorative gas log appliances).
  • An unusual pungent odor when the appliance is operating. This may indicate the creation of aldehydes, a by-product of incomplete combustion.
  • Unexplained nausea, drowsiness and flu-like symptoms.

What to do if you suspect carbon monoxide is present in your home:

  • Immediately turn off and stop using the suspected gas appliance.
  • Seek medical attention if anyone in the home experiences possible carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms.
  • Contact The Natural Gas Company at 642-5635 or a licensed heating contractor or plumber immediately to have the appliance inspected.
  • Don’t use the suspected gas appliance until it has been inspected, serviced and determined to be safe by The Natural Gas Company or a licensed heating contractor or plumber.

How to maintain and use gas appliances to prevent carbon monoxide

  • Vacuum around burner compartments, and inspect and replace furnace filters on forced-air units or central heating systems according to manufacturer instructions.
  • Make sure to properly replace the front panels of a forced-air unit or the burner compartment door of a gas wall heater.
  • Never store anything near a gas appliance that might interfere with normal appliance airflow.
  • Have all gas appliances and venting repairs done by a qualified and licensed heating or plumbing contractor.
  • When using your gas fireplace, make sure the damper is open.
  • Never use your gas oven for space heating.
  • Gas appliance maintenance is always the homeowner’s responsibility. However, The Gas Company will perform appliance safety checks upon request.

Should you worry about carbon monoxide?

Accidental carbon monoxide poisoning from natural gas appliances is statistically rare. During the last 20 years, the number of deaths related to unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning has declined substantially. However, while the chance of dying from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning from a home gas appliance is rare, it is still essential to perform regular maintenance on your home gas appliances to ensure your safety. For these reasons, it is recommended that you have your gas furnace checked at least once a year by The Natural Gas Company or a licensed heating contractor or plumber.

Carbon monoxide home alarms

The decision on whether or not to purchase and install a carbon monoxide alarm is one of personal choice. Alarms may provide an extra level of safety, but they also require routine maintenance and replacement at least every three to five years to perform properly. Even with alarms in place, regular gas appliance maintenance is still required. Inspection and routine maintenance are still the best defense against accidental carbon monoxide poisoning from natural gas appliances.