What to Know about Carbon Monoxide


When cold weather arrives, thermostats or control systems are switched from cool to heat. But homeowners rarely consider the condition of their gas furnace, its exhaust system, and how it might affect their living space.

The Importance of Venting


In general, newly constructed homes may be more energy efficient than homes built as recently as the early 2000’s.1 Innovative insulation options and products, tightly sealed air gaps, and construction methods often create a more energy efficient home. However, tight homes highlight the importance of proper venting for your central gas heating system. 

When fossil fuels are burned in a gas furnace, exhaust gases are produced. Exhaust gases must be vented away from indoor spaces so they dp not circulate in the living spaces of your home. One of these exhaust gases that should be vented away from your living space is carbon monoxide. 

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, practically odorless, and tasteless gas or liquid.2

As homes become more air tight, the pathways for these gases to escape can become limited. To be sure the gas furnace components and exhaust system are working properly by having a licensed professional HVAC contractor routinely inspect the system.


The Facts

  • Each year, more than 400 Americans die from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning.3  
  • Carbon monoxide is responsible for more than 20,000 visits the emergency room, and more than 4,000 hospitalizations.3 
  • Common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include a headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion.3 


Preventing Exhaust Buildup

In a properly functioning and installed gas furnace, carbon monoxide gas is vented outside the home. 

When fossil fuels are burned in your home, it is important that the exhaust gases be vented to a properly sized flue or venting system that eliminates them from indoor spaces. Gas furnaces are not the only source of carbon monoxide. “Carbon monoxide can be generated any time you burn fuel in cars or trucks, small engines, stoves, lanterns, grills, fireplaces, gas ranges or furnaces.”4 

The Center for Disease Control offers the following HVAC-related tips to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning in your home.

  1. Hire a professional or licensed technician. Any gas, oil, or coal burning appliances, including your heating system, water heater, or fireplace should be routinely inspected by a qualified technician.5
  2. Make sure your gas appliances are vented properly.5
  3. Have your chimney inspected or cleaned every year. Blocked chimneys can cause carbon monoxide to build up inside your home.5
  4. Do not block, close or patch a vent pipe. Only a licensed professional technician should evaluate and determine appropriate venting. Be aware of heavy snowfall that may block venting on roof or side wall.5
  5. Be sure to install a Carbon Monoxide Detector and replace batteries often.  The CDC suggests replacing your carbon monoxide detector every five years.5


Carbon Monoxide Detection

Be sure to install a Carbon Monoxide Detector and replace batteries often.  The CDC suggests replacing your carbon monoxide detector every five years.5

“Half of all unintentional CO poisoning deaths could be prevented with the use of CO alarms.”6

A functioning carbon monoxide detector can be a life saver if the gas is reaching the interior living spaces. However, the detector should only be used as a backup to properly maintaining your fuel burning appliances. The EPA has the following suggestions regarding carbon monoxide detectors:

  • Detectors should be placed on a wall about 5 feet above the floor or on the ceiling.6 
  • Do not place the detector right next to or over a fireplace or flame-producing appliance.6 
  • Each floor needs a separate detector.6 
  • Place a detector near the sleeping area and make certain the alarm is loud enough to wake you up.6 
  • Regularly test and replace batteries.6 


Reliable Amana brand indoor comfort

1 Department of Energy. (n.d.). Retrieved from Top 4 Energy Department Inventions Saving You Energy & Money at Home: https://energy.gov/articles/top-4-energy-department-inventions-saving-you-energy-money-home
2,4  What is Carbon Monoxide? (n.d.). Retrieved from EPA: https://iaq.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/212106787-What-is-Carbon-Monoxide-
3,5 Carbon Monoxide. (n.d.). Retrieved from Centers for Disease Control: https://www.cdc.gov/co/faqs.htm
6 Preventing Carbon Monoxide Poisoning. (n.d.). Retrieved from EPA: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-08/documents/pcmp_english_100-f-09-001.pdf