Irvine, CA (Vocus) October 19, 2010
Fall is on its way out, and homeowners are taking out window screens, signing up for heating oil contracts, and putting in storm windows. One thing that should be on every list is a yearly checkup of the furnace. It’s tempting to think of this maintenance as optional, but it can be critical to ensuring a safe home environment. Mike Rogers of GreenHomes America, a company specializing in retrofitting homes to be safe, comfortable, and energy efficient, points out that, “Nationally, 20-25 percent of all homes have either significant gas leaks, carbon monoxide, combustion issues, or both. This is serious stuff.”
While an inefficient furnace degrades air quality and comfort, the most critical issue is carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, tasteless, colorless gas that results from inefficient combustion. Rogers notes, “Anything that burns fuel creates some CO, but a dirty, old or compromised furnace – whether it burns gas, fuel oil, kerosene, wood, or coal – can produce dangerous levels. At lower doses, CO can worsen heart conditions, cause fatigue, headache, weakness, confusion, nausea and dizziness. At higher doses, it can kill.”
The US Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that, on average, 170 people die every year in the US from CO poisoning, and the Centers for Disease Control estimates that several thousand people go to hospital emergency rooms every year to be treated for CO poisoning.
The following tips, from GreenHomes America, can help ensure a safe home:
1. First, have a qualified technician perform a yearly inspection of your fuel-burning appliances and chimneys to make sure they are operating and venting correctly. The inspection should include analysis of the combustion gases and draft. Make sure to include water heating systems, generators, wood stoves and fireplaces.
2. At a minimum, install a UL-listed CO alarm in the hallway by every separate sleeping area in the home. They are inexpensive and can be had in any hardware store for $10 or less. A better approach is hardwired, interconnected CO alarms on every floor and in each bedroom.
3. NEVER attempt to adjust or service a fuel-burning appliance yourself. Always have a qualified professional do this work.
4. Burning any fuel with inadequate oxygen can lead to increased production of CO. Furnaces or water heaters without an adequate air supply can cause problems. A home performance or HVAC specialist can check for this problem, and if necessary, install a combustion air supply. A better approach is to use only sealed combustion equipment, which avoids any connection between the combustion and the air inside your home.
5. Make sure there is unobstructed space around your furnace. There should be at least a two-foot buffer around all sides. And, check that there are no combustible or volatile agents nearby (these should never be inside the house anyway).
6. If you heat with a wood stove, pellet stove or fireplace insert, make sure to use only wood or good quality wood pellets for a pellet stove; do not start the fire with agents like lighter fluid; and have proper ventilation.
7. NEVER use a gas stove, grill, camp stove, or any fuel-burning space heater indoors, even in an emergency. This is extremely dangerous. You’re better off staying elsewhere.
8. And anytime you make changes to your home, from building an addition, to adding air-conditioning, to changing your windows, you should have an expert make sure that all equipment is operating and venting properly.
Additional resources are available at the National Safety Council’s website,http://www.nsc.org/resources/factsheets, or at http://www.greenhomesamerica.com.
Irvine-based GreenHomes America is the premier industry-accredited, single-source provider of home performance contracting (HPC) in the U.S., with locations nationally. GreenHomes America offers an award-winning home improvement service that significantly enhances the comfort, energy efficiency and air quality of existing single and multi-family homes. GreenHomes America delivers a full line of home performance and HVAC services including comprehensive home energy audits, insulation and air-sealing, high-efficiency air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, and water heaters, indoor air quality, windows and doors, and solar systems. We guarantee to save homeowners at least 25% on their heating and cooling energy usage. GreenHomes America works with Home Performance with ENERGY STAR, is a Building Performance Institute (BPI) accredited organization, and is a founding member of Efficiency First. For more information on GreenHomes America, call 1.877.867.2833 or visithttp://www.greenhomesamerica.com.