Vertex Mechanical’s HVAC, Plumbing & Electrical Blog

Carbon Monoxide from Your Furnace: Dangers and Warning Signs

Using any fossil fuel furnace such as oil or gas to heat your home is one of the most popular and energy-efficient methods on the market today. However, since furnaces use combustion to produce heat, you need to be aware of the risks of carbon monoxide poisoning. While leaks are fortunately rare, if you believe carbon monoxide is coming from your furnace, you need to take it seriously.

Severe exposure to carbon monoxide can cause a variety of long-term health issues including memory loss and emotional instability. However, this deadly gas is odorless and colorless, making it difficult to identify.

At Vertex Mechanical, we are an expert heating and cooling company dedicated to your safety. Our technicians have decades of experience diagnosing and fixing furnaces that leak carbon monoxide. Learn more about the warning signs of carbon monoxide from your furnace, the health hazards, and how to fix a carbon monoxide leak.

Leaking Carbon Monoxide Causes

Carbon monoxide is a normal byproduct from burning fossil fuels like oil and gas to make heat — that’s no problem since a properly functioning heating system will safely vent the carbon monoxide to the outside. But even a minor carbon monoxide leak requires you to shut off your system — and contact your heating and cooling company immediately. Carbon monoxide coming from your furnace only becomes an issue when the system malfunctions in a way that allows it to leak out. The two most common ways this occurs are from a cracked heat exchanger or a damaged flue pipe or chimney.

A heat exchanger is a metal panel in your furnace that separates the heated “clean” air that is pushed throughout your home and the system exhaust that is vented to the outside. A crack in this metal panel causes exhaust fumes to seep into the clean air that heats your home. Once the carbon monoxide leaks into the clean air, it will make its way to every room of your house that has heat.

Every time your heater burns oil or gas, it creates carbon monoxide — and that’s okay. Your sealed furnace flue safely vents the dangerous carbon monoxide to the outside. However, if your furnace flue is cracked or damaged, that carbon monoxide will spill out into your home. The size of the cracks in the flue pipe determine how much carbon monoxide will leak into your home, but really, any amount is too much.

carbon monoxide alarm

Whether it is pouring from the flue pipe or the heat exchanger, you can’t see or smell carbon monoxide, which makes it especially dangerous. These are the two main ways to detect carbon monoxide from your furnace:

  1. A carbon monoxide detector with a LED readout, which is a crucial safety device for any home. It will alarm in the presence of carbon monoxide.
  2. An annual heating system tune-up and inspection by HVAC professionals will ensure your system is sealed and safe — learn more about the benefits of a heating system tune-up.

Dangers of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

While these leaks can be rare, they deserve your attention because of the severity of carbon monoxide poisoning. There are both short-term and long-term effects that result from exposure.
Symptoms of short-term carbon monoxide exposure include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Sick pets or dying plants

Consistently experiencing a combination of these symptoms without other reason is cause for concern. Some people even compare the feeling of carbon monoxide poisoning to having the flu. Once again, the first and best line of defense is carbon monoxide detectors placed throughout your home.

Ignoring carbon monoxide leaks is not a remotely safe idea. While some pieces of home maintenance can be put off until later, this isn’t one of them. Symptoms of long-term or extreme exposure to carbon monoxide include:

  • Memory loss
  • Emotional instability
  • Brain damage
  • Heart complications

HVAC Experts to Stop Carbon Monoxide from Your Furnace

While many homeowners get a sense of satisfaction from fixing things on their own, carbon monoxide from your furnace is too dangerous to DIY. So if you’re wondering how to fix a carbon monoxide leak, the answer is to contact a heating and cooling professional.

Our furnace experts need to identify the precise piece or pieces of your system that are leaking and replace them completely and correctly. In addition, our technicians have professional-only tools to detect even trace amounts of the odorless gas. Our skills and tools are the only way to truly guarantee the danger has been rectified.

gas furnace maintenance

Bottom line: any amount of carbon monoxide from a furnace is dangerous. If you know or suspect you have a leak, turn off your system and contact us immediately.

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