If you are the owner of a home or business, there is always a potential risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Any vehicles, appliances, heating systems or other vessels that run off of charcoal, gas, diesel, propane or other carbon-based fuels produce toxic fumes.
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a poisonous gas that poses serious health risks for any individuals that become exposed to it. The gas is colorless and odorless, meaning it can be difficult to detect in the event that there is a leak within the building.
Your HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) system has a component—called a heat exchanger—that keeps the poisonous gases that are created from getting into your ventilation ducts by directing them out of the building. Any corrosion, cracks, or holes in this piece can cause the improper functioning of your system, potentially resulting in a CO leak.
Any intake of the toxic gas makes it difficult for an individual’s body to take in oxygen. This can result in symptoms ranging from mild to fatal—depending on the size and concentration of the leak—making it necessary to be aware of the effects that exposure to carbon monoxide can cause.
What are Some Common Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?
Because carbon monoxide is difficult to detect, it is important to be able to recognize any signs that an individual may be suffering from a potential gas leak:
- Mild Cases – Symptoms similar to those of a flu virus are the result of low exposure to carbon monoxide. Headaches, nausea, fatigue, and dizziness are some of the symptoms related to mild levels of exposure to the poisonous gas.
- Moderate Cases – For moderate leaks of the toxic gas, symptoms become quite a bit more intense. Severe headaches, drowsiness, confusion, disorientation, and even an accelerated heart rate have been known to result from medium exposure to carbon monoxide.
- Extreme Cases – High levels of exposure to carbon monoxide present the greatest health risks. In the past, this has resulted in unconsciousness, convulsions, cardio respiratory failure, comas, and in some cases death.
Not only does exposure to these toxic fumes pose immediate health concerns, but there is also a chance of suffering from delayed long-term effects including dementia, depression, partial or complete blindness, psychosis, memory loss, and other types of neurological damage. Additionally, pre-existing conditions may become worsened as a result of exposure.
What Steps Can I Take to Prevent a Gas Leak?
Although HVAC systems typically only account for a small percentage of carbon monoxide cases, it is necessary to take some precautionary steps in order to avoid becoming part of that small percentage and ensure the safety of yourself, your family, and your employees.
First and foremost, the proper installation of your HVAC system will help to prevent any future threats. Any type of disconnect may result in the improper functioning of the entire machine, allowing the possibility of a hazardous gas leak.
Another way in which you can avoid the threat of a carbon monoxide leak at your location is to schedule regular maintenance of your HVAC system. It should be checked at least once a year, and filters should be cleaned or replaced as often as every month in order to prevent future breakdowns. This will also help to reduce your energy use and costs.
One last preventative measure that can be taken is to install a carbon monoxide detector in your home or business location. These devices are designed to alert
you when there is a highly-concentrated leak.
CO detectors are designed to keep you safe from extreme cases of poisoning, so they only alert when there are high levels of toxicity in your airstream. Because low exposure still presents health risks, it is important to remain cautious of minor symptoms resulting from a carbon monoxide leak.
Even with constant maintenance, there are still times when your system may not be running properly. Often, a simple repair will do the trick, but how can you tell whether you just need repairs or you need to replace the whole system?
When is it Time to Replace My HVAC System?
How do you know when it’s time to replace your entire HVAC system? Here are a few questions that will help you to decide whether or not a complete replacement is necessary:
- How old is your current system?
- If your current HVAC system is already over 10 years old, it is likely time to start thinking about replacing it. A new system will function much more efficiently than one that has been running for over a decade.
- Are you comfortable with the current system’s level of performance?
- Is the system providing you with the comfort that you need? If your unit does not heat up or cool down as quickly and effectively as it should, it may be time to look into a new system.
- Would the upkeep of your old system be worth it?
- How much is it going to cost you to repair your old system? Will you need to repair it yet again in the near future? It may save you time and money—and be much more convenient overall—to simply bite the bullet and replace your old system.
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