At this time of year, the first chilly morning reminds us that fall is indeed here and it won’t be long until winter arrives. When your cooling system is defective, it may cause you to be uncomfortably warm, but it won’t likely endanger the lives of you and your family. The same cannot be said about your gas heating system.

There are many reasons for a heating system to stop working and most of them are not life threatening. As a matter of fact, the one component that can do the most harm, may not stop the heating system from working. And because it’s not always obvious that there’s a problem, you may not even know that it’s leaking carbon monoxide into to your heating system’s air distribution network. The very ducts that feed warm and cool air into your home or place of business will be the conduit by which carbon monoxide reaches the living space from the heat exchanger.

Heat exchangers are made of galvanized steel, or in some cases stainless steel. Their primary function is to transfer heat from burned natural gas, to the air that we breathe in buildings. The metal enclosures are designed to keep these 2 air paths separate with carbon monoxide being released outdoors and the warm air being distributed indoors. Once there is a compromise in the metal, whether it’s a crack or perforation caused by corrosion, the byproducts of combustion can be mixed in with the air that circulated indoors.

This is where the danger lies and why it’s so important to have regular inspections of your heating equipment by trained professionals.  Cracks can occur anytime, so be sure that you have carbon monoxide detectors that are properly installed and have fresh batteries.

In addition to heat exchangers, there are also other ways that carbon monoxide can reach dangerous levels in your home or building. Blocked flue vents, missing wind caps, negative building pressure caused by exhaust systems, defective draft inducers, improperly vented gas fireplaces, operating cooking equipment for heating,

You should also recognize the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning such as:

  • Chest tightness or shortness of breath
  • Tiredness
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness

In the event your carbon monoxide detector alarm sounds or you feel any of the symptoms listed above, you should immediately vacate the premises taking pets with you, contact your local gas company and return to open windows once the immediate danger has passed.