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    Dealing with Carbon Monoxide (CO) in the HVAC Industry

    Responsibilities and Challenges for the HVAC Technician

    Heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration (HVAC-R) systems keep us comfortable in hot and cold climates both in the home and in the workplace. HVAC technicians are the dedicated professionals with very specific and technical training that enable them to install, maintain and repair the various indoor climate control systems that ensure our comfort and safety. One of the most overlooked dangers in the home is the potential exposure to carbon monoxide from malfunctioning or improperly installed heating systems. HVAC professionals can inspect and maintain these heating systems keeping them in good operating condition reducing the potential for carbon monoxide in your home.

    Holding Inspector Industrial Pro in front of boiler

    Sources of Carbon Monoxide (CO) in HVAC Equipment

    Carbon monoxide (CO) is an extremely toxic gas and is produced whenever fuel is burned. It is found in the exhaust of various fuel burning equipment and appliances such as vehicles, generators, furnaces, water heaters, gas stoves, etc. According to the CDC, poorly maintained heating systems (furnaces and boilers) are the number one cause of carbon monoxide poisonings in the United States (https://youtu.be/gZp5jAg4-PM). A cracked heat exchanger in your furnace or boiler is the most common source of carbon monoxide leaks from your heating system, but other sources of carbon monoxide can be caused by blocked or cracked chimneys or flues.

    The CDC recommends having the heating system checked by an HVAC professional once a year; they can clean and maintain the system and check for signs of improper venting of the exhaust gases. Also, since many heating systems do vent into a chimney, it is important to have the chimney checked and cleaned once a year to ensure it is free of debris minimizing the potential for carbon monoxide to build up in the home.

    Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas and it is very poisonous to animals and humans. Carbon monoxide poisoning is the most common cause of death from accidental poisoning in the United States and every year in the United States, approximately 20,000 people go to the emergency room and almost 500 people a year die due to carbon monoxide poisoning (https://www.cdc.gov/co/default.htm). Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning vary depending on the severity and duration of the exposure; lower to moderate levels of exposure can often be mistaken for the flu, while higher levels of exposure can result in more severe and dangerous symptoms. Signs of carbon monoxide poisoning (CO poisoning) are listed below:

    Mild to Moderate Symptoms:

    • Fatigue
    • Headache
    • Nausea
    • Dizziness
    • Shortness of breath

    More Severe Symptoms:

    • Disorientation
    • Loss of hearing
    • Blurry vision
    • Rapid heartbeat and/or chest pain

    In the worst of cases, exposure to higher levels of carbon monoxide can lead to cardiac arrest, loss of consciousness or coma, respiratory failure and death.

    John Hopkins Medicine

    If you or someone in your family is showing symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning (CO poisoning), you should leave the area immediately and get to fresh air. Call 911 or your local emergency medical service (EMS) and only shut off the source of carbon monoxide if you can do it quickly and safely. (https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/carbon-monoxide-poisoning)

    If you are experiencing issues with carbon monoxide due to your furnace or boiler, you should immediately call an HVAC professional to investigate and eliminate the source of carbon monoxide (CO) in your furnace or boiler.

    Using Carbon Monoxide Meters to Detect and Monitor Carbon Monoxide Levels

    The Sensorcon CO Inspector is a portable and reliable carbon monoxide meter (CO meter) that was designed in the USA and is assembled in our manufacturing facility located in Buffalo, NY. The CO meter provides you with real-time readings all the way from 0 to 2000 PPM and is used by professionals to monitor or inspect for carbon monoxide. Trusted by police, fire fighters, emergency medical services (EMS), home inspectors and HVAC technicians, the Sensorcon CO Inspector is a great tool for monitoring for and diagnosing CO leaks in the home or workplace.Please visit our product pages to learn more about our various product offerings.