Your home is closed tight against the outside chill and the furnace clicks on and off. Running at intervals it is designed to keep your home at a steady temperature. Your home is warm; you are cozy and safe from the wicked cold that whistles past your windows. You don’t realize it yet, but your warm, safe cocoon is slowly poisoning you and your family to death.
Carbon monoxide is odorless, tasteless and invisible but, according to the CDC (Center for Disease Control) it is responsible for more than 500 deaths and an incredible 15,000 hospital emergency room visits each year. Carbon monoxide is an insidious thief that steals the health, mental and emotional well being of those who are unlucky enough to inhale it. If it is not detected, carbon monoxide will steal the very life from its victims.
The most common cause for carbon monoxide poisoning is a malfunctioning automobile exhaust system, or a non-electric heat source in a home with an obstructed or malfunctioning exhaust system. Poisonings are most common during power outages when people use electric generators or drag their gas grill indoors and use them in an attempt to stay warm. However health professionals and first responders never forget that gas powered home heating systems can have a cracked heat exchanger. A cracked heat exchanger can cause a most terrible case of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Carbon monoxide poisoning is exhibited through flu-like symptoms…headache, nausea and fatigue are all common. These can be followed by shortness of breath and impaired judgment. Like heat, carbon monoxide rises, so a slow poisoning from a small crack in a heat exchanger will affect those who spend the most time in the home or who sleep on the highest level of the home, then affect other family-members later. A major crack in the heat exchanger can put a whole family in a fight for their very lives in a single night.
A yearly cleaning and examination of a gas heating system will reveal a crack in the heat exchanger as well as optimize operations of a home heating system. Convincing people, that they need a pre-season checkup on their heating system, however, can prove difficult. Convincing them that a byproduct of their gas heating system is escaping into their homes and that it will kill them, is even more difficult; but it is an argument that HVAC technicians know that they can’t lose. After all lives are at stake.