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Home Safety—Carbon Monoxide Detectors & Regular Maintenance

Your home is a sanctuary. It is where you and your family spend most of your life. Part of making your home a haven of comfort is ensuring
that it is also safe. When heating Portland homes or powering appliances with gas, wood, oil or coal, homeowners and their families benefit from the preventive services that licensed contractors provide during annual inspections. Along with maintaining appliances, it is also a good idea to regularly test carbon monoxide detectors and schedule annual inspections of a home’s furnace exhaust system.

Photo of family sitting on home couch.

Heating Portland Homes: Why Carbon Monoxide Matters

Burning fuel—such as gas, oil, coal or wood—produces carbon dioxide. This gas is responsible for over 20,000 emergency room visits each year. While utility companies give natural gas an unpleasant odor, carbon monoxide does not have a distinct odor, color, or taste. When individuals state that they smell carbon monoxide, they generally smell the byproduct of the burning fuel, like smoke or exhaust.

The following produce carbon monoxide:

  • Gas-powered vehicles and machinery
  • Fuel-burning appliances
  • Charcoal and gas grills
  • Gas stoves
  • Wood and gas fireplaces
  • Candles

Carbon monoxide exists in nature and bodies need a small percentage of the gas to function. When carbon monoxide enters the body through the skin and inhalation, it binds to hemoglobin in the blood. When this occurs in higher concentrations, red blood cells cannot carry oxygen throughout the body.

Most instances of carbon monoxide poisoning occur when an individual is exposed to the gas in an enclosed space that is not ventilated. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headaches, dizziness, nausea, confusion, drowsiness and vision problems. You might think that you suffered food poisoning or have the flu, but then find that you feel better when you are outside.

If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning:

  • Move yourself and anyone else affected by the gas outside right away.
  • Call 9-1-1.

How to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

  1. Install carbon monoxide detectors throughout your home, including near your bedroom. Even if you do not have gas appliances or a fireplace in your home, it is still a good idea to have at least one detector, particularly if you like to burn candles. Change the batteries in carbon monoxide detectors twice a year. Replace the detectors every five years.
  2. Hire a qualified licensed technician to inspect and maintain fuel-burning appliances every year. These appliances include those that run off gas, oil, wood or coal.
  3. Do not use outdoor grills, generators, portable flameless chemical heaters and other items meant for outdoor use inside your home.
  4. If the power goes out for a prolonged period and you do not have fireplace, stay at an emergency shelter, hotel, or friend’s home. Do not try to heat your home using candles or outdoor appliances. If the heating system breaks down and the electricity in your home remains unaffected, contact an HVAC contractor right away.
  5. Ensure that all gas appliances in your home vent outdoors.
  6. If the vent pipes from fuel-burning appliances crack or break, turn the appliance off and call a qualified technician right away. Do not patch the pipe with tape, gum or objects.
  7. Hire a professional to inspect and clean your chimneys every year.
  8. Do not leave your car running in the garage, even if the garage door is open.

At AAA Heating & Cooling, the safety and health of your family and home are our top priorities. We want your home to be a safe haven that feels comfortable throughout the year. If you have fuel-burning appliances, gain added peace of mind by pairing annual appliance inspections with our Indoor Air Monitoring services. Using state-of-the-art indoor air quality monitoring systems, our technicians obtain precise reports regarding harmful particulates found in your home so they can provide you with informed recommendations. If you have any concerns about your heating and cooling system, don’t hesitate to get in touch with AAA Heating & Cooling at any time of the day or night.

Photo by Shilad Sen via CC License

Annual furnace maintenance is a necessary task. It keeps the furnace in good working condition and helps it run as efficiently as possible. Maintenance also allows a professional to find and repair minor issues before they become expensive problems. As a homeowner, reporting irregularities that you notice to an HVAC professional also goes a long way toward keeping your home safe, lowers energy bills, and keeps your family more comfortable.

Furnace Maintenance Issues and Common Causes

The following furnace issues require professional expertise:HVAC Furnace Technicians performing furnace maintenance

  • Excessive soot: Soot is a problem that can occur with gas-fired and oil furnaces. Excessive furnace soot causes the heat that the appliance produces to go up into the chimney instead of into the home. Excessive soot also poses a fire hazard and increases the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.Seeing debris, soot or rust flakes in the flue vent connector or on the horizontal surfaces near the furnace is a sign that it needs any of the following: cleaning and servicing, a replacement heat exchanger, or burner adjustment. A little oil burner soot (no more than 1/8 inch) after the appliance receives maintenance services is normal. There is a problem, however, if the soot quickly reappears after a professional cleans it.
  • Irregular flame: The furnace’s pilot light should be blue, not yellow. A yellow, faint, or irregular flame can be a sign that the burner is dirty, clogged, has a faulty ignition, a thermocouple problem, a cracked heat exchanger, or may be located in a drafty room. A yellow flame may also indicate that there is a non-ideal balance of gases surrounding the pilot light.
  • Short or frequent cycling: Short cycling is when the furnace runs for a short period and turns off. Frequent cycling may be due to bad thermostat settings, a faulty thermostat, poor airflow, an exchanger issue or a clogged filter.
  • Problems starting and staying on: This is an indication that you may need a new thermostat. Such a problem might also result from bad wiring, a broken pilot light, or a broken fan motor.
  • Insufficient heat: When a furnace doesn’t heat a space properly, it might be the wrong size, have a clogged filter, or have a problem with the pilot light. It is also an indication that the thermostat might be faulty.
  • Excessive noise: While furnaces aren’t exactly quiet, they should not make strange noises. Noises generally mean there is an airflow problem, a clogged burner, an ignition issue, or a mechanical problem.
  • Blower continuously runs: A blower that’s always on may be the result of a faulty limit switch.

DIY Furnace Maintenance

  • Check the thermostat: A dead battery in a thermostat may cause the furnace to not produce heat. Make sure the thermostat is on “Heat” mode and that the temperature setting is higher than the room’s temperature. The fan should be on “Auto” so the blower doesn’t run continuously. If the thermostat doesn’t match the furnace’s capacity and capabilities, you’ll need a replacement.
  • Change the air filters regularly: Dirty air filters lead to several preventable furnace problems. Replace or clean the air filters according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Stop drafts: If you have problems with the pilot light going out, the furnace is located in a room that might be too drafty. Try closing the windows or the door to the respective room.

While there are simple tasks that help keep a furnace working properly, it’s important to leave furnace installations, maintenance, mechanical repairs and issues with any of the gas components to a licensed HVAC expert. Failing to do so may lead to further damage, safety risks, or voiding the appliance’s warranty. Schedule furnace maintenance before the winter weather arrives to ensure your home feels cozy throughout the winter without interruption.


Photo by NAVFAC via CC License