Indoor Air Quality

Carbon Monoxide Safety Tips for Homeowners

Published on: January 24, 2019
Two white ceiling-mounted carbon monoxide detectors | Carbon Monoxide Safety Tips for Homeowners | AC Southeast®

Carbon monoxide is in the news more over the winter months because of tragedies. Let’s review some basics about carbon monoxide, to better inform and prepare you to keep loved ones safe.

What is Carbon Monoxide?

If it’s been a while since chemistry class, we’re happy to explain. Carbon monoxide is the combination of carbon and oxygen, hence the abbreviation CO. People frequently confuse it with carbon dioxide.


Carbon dioxide is the result of carbon and two oxygen atoms. You may have heard it referred to as CO2. Both occur in nature. Each of us produces carbon dioxide every time we exhale. Both are colorless, odorless and tasteless gases.


The biggest difference is CO is responsible for poisonings every year. Most victims experience flu-like symptoms or lose consciousness. In large quantities, CO is lethal.

How Does Carbon Monoxide Get in My House?

As a heating and cooling organization, we speak of CO in the context of gas combustion equipment, like gas furnaces. If a furnace overheats due to malfunctions or neglected maintenance, it may develop cracks in its heat exchanger. (NOTE: Will link to another Jan blog about cracked heat exchangers).


It’s possible for CO to enter your home from a variety of sources. According to Safekids.org, a person is a risk from the following situations:


Blocked Exhaust Vents

These vents include those from the dryer, furnace, stove or fireplace. Look around the outside of your home and make sure all vents are clear of debris, yard waste, or possible bird nests. Even the occasional snow, slush or ice in the Southeast can block some exterior vents.


Outdoor Cooking

Don’t use a grill, camping stove or generator inside your home, garage or near a window. Occasionally, people may use a gas grill during the rain by pulling it into the garage. It may seem harmless, but gas may accumulate quickly.


Often pets and small children are affected first. Unlike smoke, CO doesn’t rise, so those lower to the ground exhibit the symptoms earlier.



Resist the temptation to heat your home with the warmth from an oven or stove. Any gas-fueled appliance is at risk for bringing excessive amounts of CO into your home if they malfunction or are not vented properly. This includes hot water heaters, ovens, fireplaces, furnaces and gas dryers.


How to Protect Against Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

First, educate yourself about the various potential sources in your home.


Second, take precautions to prevent any sort of build up from these sources.


Third, install CO detectors in your home and check them regularly. Unlike smoke detectors, they should be installed lower on the wall. Typical recommendations suggest installation at knee-height, or where your head may be while sleeping.


Some companies make combination detectors for smoke and CO. These may be installed higher, according to the manufacturer’s recommendation.


Finally, schedule regular maintenance for your gas furnace. During a tune-up, a qualified HVAC technician uses a telescoping camera to inspect your furnace’s heat exchanger to look for any cracks. He or she also cleans, lubricates and tests any relevant components to lessen the risk for overheating or grinding components.  


Find Air Quality and HVAC Professionals with AC Southeast®

Need an HVAC expert technician to check your gas furnace and offer suggestions for its best operation? AC Southeast® matches you with a local professional for regular preventative maintenance or repairs of your system.


This will ensure you stay comfortable all year long. Routine maintenance also helps warranties stay intact which could save you big money if there’s an issue someday.


We only work with trained and certified professionals who provide outstanding customer service. When you choose AC Southeast®, you are guaranteed a certified, trained HVAC professional. Visit our site today!