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Avoiding A Furnace Carbon Monoxide Leak

avoiding co leaks massachusettsWe’re a few weeks into winter here in Massachusetts – which means your heating system is hard at work keeping your family safe and warm. Sometimes, your furnace can work a little too hard, leading to heating system issues – including potential safety problems.

One potential safety issue that could develop with your oil furnace is a carbon monoxide (CO) leak – a problem that, while not as likely as a CO leak with a gas-powered furnace, remains a possibility. Carbon monoxide leaks can be extremely dangerous or even deadly – definitely not a hazard you want to treat lightly or ignore!

Your Furnace And CO: The Basics

Most of the colorless, odorless carbon monoxide in your furnace is contained within its heat exchanger – the part of your furnace that is responsible for keeping your breathing air and the combustion process separate. In a functioning, properly vented furnace, all CO and other exhaust gases are directed through the flue pipe and safely vented outside your home.

The problem is that over time, a heat exchanger or its flue pipe could develop cracks, leaving your equipment susceptible to carbon monoxide leaks. Other conditions could also lead to a buildup of CO in your home (see below).

6 Ways To Prevent CO Problems

Needless to say, a carbon monoxide buildup is definitely something you want to avoid. Here are the four best ways to do that:

  1. Get regular heating maintenance. The best way to prevent a carbon monoxide problem with your furnace is to have it regularly maintained by professionals. During an annual tune-up, a technician will clean and inspect your furnace, identifying and troubleshooting any issue that could inhibit proper function.
  2. Change your air filter regularly. One cause of a carbon monoxide build-up is obstructed airflow caused by a blocked furnace air filter. Check your filter regularly throughout the heating season to ensure proper air movement to, within, and away from your furnace.
  3. Watch for warning signs. In an oil-fired furnace, a soot deposit on or smoke emanating from your equipment is often a telltale sign of a CO leak, which should be addressed immediately. In a gas-fired furnace, the warning signs are often undetectable without a CO detector (see below).
  4. Check and clear your vent/flue pipe. Snow, ice, and other debris could block your flue/vent pipe from the outside, sending dangerous gases back into your home. After a storm, be sure to check your exhaust pipe for blockage.
  5. Only have heating equipment installed by professionals. Poorly installed heating equipment and improperly configured ductwork will lead to problems – including serious ones – sooner or later. Heating system installation is always a job for qualified, licensed professionals – unless you’re a licensed pro, never try it yourself.
  6. Install carbon monoxide detectors. Since carbon monoxide is colorless and odorless, you won’t reliably know when you have a build-up in your home – unless you have CO detectors installed. CO detectors are required in residences by Massachusetts law! Be sure to follow manufacturer’s instructions for installation and maintenance, and test them twice a year to make sure they’re working properly.

If you have any questions about carbon monoxide from your furnace – or if you need heating system repairs and installations in Middlesex and Norfolk counties, MA – trust the pros at Needham Oil Complete Heating and Cooling. Contact us today to learn more!