"The emissions from a furnace with stress spots or cracks in the heat exchanger can contribute to high levels of carbon monoxide exposure," said Doyle James, president of Aire Serv Heating and Air Conditioning, Inc. "The air we breathe indoors can actually be more dangerous than the air outdoors."
Aire Serv suggests homeowners follow these safety tips for keeping safe and warm, but contact your local heating contractor for further information:
Install a carbon monoxide detector; place outside the sleeping quarters on each floor of the home.
Keep generators in a well-ventilated area and away from the house.
Never heat your house with a gas oven or range.
Avoid warming your car up or keep it running inside the garage, even with the garage door opened, to prevent fumes from accumulating and entering your home.
Have the furnace and any heating equipment checked by a heating specialist. In addition to cleaning your system, checking refrigerant levels (heat pump) and adjusting your system as needed, your contractor should look for cracks or damage to the heat exchanger.
Remove any clutter around the furnace, particularly flammable items.
Do not burn foil, garbage, glossy magazines, painted wood or plastics. They release a toxic cloud of chemicals.
Check your furnace air filter monthly and replace as necessary. Air flow can be restricted if the filter is dirty.
Remember that your pets are as attracted to the warm fireplace and heater as you are, so make sure they can't burn themselves or knock a heat source over - putting everyone in harm's way.
Warning signs that carbon monoxide may be accumulating in your home include gas flames burning orange or yellow instead of blue, sooty stains on heating appliances or around heating registers, and a poorly igniting furnace. Residents need to also look for physical systems of headaches, dizziness, disorientation, nausea and fatigue.
"It's important for residents to install a carbon monoxide detector to help identify a serious situation such as faulty or improperly used appliances, which can lead to fatal carbon monoxide levels," said James. "It is impossible to see, taste or smell the toxic gas, so it can accumulate in your house without you ever knowing."