"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 before turning on their furnaces:
- Install a carbon monoxide detector; place outside the sleeping quarters on each floor of the 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.
- Check your furnace 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 don't burn themselves or knock a heat source over - putting everyone in harms way.
Watch for these warning signs that you could have a potential carbon monoxide issue in your home:
- If any gas flame is burning orange or yellow instead of blue.
- Sooty stains on heating appliances or around heating registers.
- Poorly igniting furnace - the chimney may be blocked, causing combustion gases to back up into the home.
- Headaches, dizziness, disorientation, nausea and fatigue are symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning - have your heating equipment checked and see your physician.
Homeowners affected by power outages should also keep generators in well-ventilated areas and away from their home. Additionally, batteries need to be replaced in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to ensure they work throughout the winter season.