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One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning HVAC Blog

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning from Your Heating System

Carbon Monoxide poisoning kills 400 Americans every year and sends 20,000 to the hospital, according to the CDC. Leaking furnaces or boilers are one of the most common causes of deadly carbon monoxide poisoning— every year without fail.

Odorless, colorless and very deadly, carbon monoxide is a byproduct of burning fuel to heat your home. Even small leaks in your boiler or furnace can expose you to a deadly amount of carbon monoxide.

Carbon monoxide poisoning directly relates to running your heating system. So winter weather means it’s time to get informed and take precautions to keep safe from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Household Sources of Carbon Monoxide

  • Gas Furnaces
  • Oil Furnaces
  •  Gas Boilers
  • Oil Boilers
  • Wood fireplaces
  • Wood pellet stoves

How Does Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Occur

Carbon monoxide poisoning is the term used for when carbon monoxide displaces oxygen that our bodies need to function. Since our muscles, organs and our brains all require a constant supply of oxygen to function, the damage from carbon monoxide poisoning is extensive.

Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Survivors of carbon monoxide poisoning compare the feeling to being sick with the flu.

These symptoms can include:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Physical weakness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Chest pain
  • Confusion
  • Unconsciousness

Losing consciousness close to the source of the carbon monoxide often results in death.

Compromised Heating System = Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Feeling anxious?

Well, although carbon monoxide poising is extremely dangerous, if your boiler or furnace is running properly, you are safe—100%!

Only a compromised boiler or furnace will release potent levels of carbon monoxide.

Most common heating system defects that release carbon monoxide.

  • Cracks in the combustion chamber
  • Leaking seams
  • Cracks in the exhaust piping
  • Incomplete combustion process

An older furnace is more likely to experience these deadly issues. Ordinary wear & tear can cause this simple but deadly damage.

What can you do?

Carbon Monoxide Detector

First things first, place carbon monoxide detectors around your house. Carbon monoxide detectors are as essential as smoke detectors. These electronic devices emit noise when they detect a life-threatening amount of carbon monoxide.

Since carbon monoxide is colorless, odorless, and tasteless, detectors are the ONLY way to identify the dangerous gas.

To maximize their effectiveness, place one near your heating system and place one on every floor. If your carbon monoxide detector alarm sounds evacuate your house and seek fresh air.

Test your carbon monoxide detectors as regularly as you test your smoke alarms.

Limits to Carbon Monoxide Detectors


Carbon monoxide detectors are your first line of defense against the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning. They are a necessity in every home.

carbon monoxide detector

However, carbon monoxide detectors can ONLY detect extremely high levels of carbon monoxide. Levels that would qualify as acute exposure.

Carbon monoxide detectors fail to detect smaller, yet still potent levels of the dangerous gas. Chronic exposure to those low levels of carbon monoxide can lead to the same dangerous, life-changing symptoms as acute exposure.

Your furnace could be leaking carbon monoxide into your home for weeks and your carbon monoxide detectors could miss it.

The only way to 100% ensure you and your family’s safety is to schedule an inspection and tune-up with an HVAC expert.

Annual Furnace Tuneup

For systems at greater risk for carbon monoxide leak, a yearly One Hour Air tuneup can ensure any damage is found BEFORE the system runs and releases carbon monoxide.

furnace tuneup

In fact, the CDC strongly recommends having a qualified HVAC technician tuneup your furnace or boiler, stating:

“Have your heating system, water heater, and any other gas, oil, or coal-burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician every year.”

The older your heating system, the more essential an annual tuneup becomes. If your heating system is leaking or at risk to leak the One Hour Air technician will diagnose it on the spot.

Sign up for one of our Protection Plans to ensure you have a tune-up performed annually — without fail.

Contact us for a heating system tuneup to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.


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