Carbon Monoxide vs Natural Gas: What You Need to Know

Natural gas is an extremely safe power source for heating, cooking, and other appliances, but there are still two potential hazards when using natural gas to power appliances around your property. A natural gas leak is one potential problem that can lead to fire and explosion. The second problem is a carbon monoxide leak, which can result in carbon monoxide poisoning.

Although these are both risks of a gas piping system, how they occur, their signs, and their implications are different. This makes it helpful to know about both natural gas and carbon monoxide if you have gas appliances.

What’s the Difference Between Natural Gas and Carbon Monoxide

Natural gas is a hydrocarbon gas containing methane. As the name implies, it occurs naturally in the environment. We use it to provide fuel for appliances like stoves, heaters, water heaters, and furnaces. In its natural state, this gas is colorless, odorless, and tasteless, but NYC utility companies mix in additives that give a sulfur smell for safety. 

The natural gas comes into your home via pipes that are attached to gas powered appliances. Carbon monoxide, also known as CO, is produced when the appliances using the natural gas do not work properly and the natural gas does not burn completely. Instead of all the natural gas being converted to power, it is improperly combusted and CO is created as a byproduct. CO is also colorless and odorless.

The primary risks of a natural gas leak are fire and oxygen deprivation. But the odor and other signs make it easier to detect natural gas. Carbon monoxide is often called the “silent killer” because it can result in sickness and death with very few symptoms.

Signs of a Carbon Monoxide Leak

If there is a carbon monoxide leak in your residence, the symptoms of CO poisoning that you are most likely to notice are:

  • Headaches
  • Tiredness
  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty Breathing
  • Reduced Appetite
  • Pale Skin
  • Ringing in Ears 
  • Nosebleeds

Small amounts of CO over a long period of time, such as when you have a very small leak, can lead to trouble sleeping, problems with memory, mood swings, personality changes, and vision problems. In extreme cases, carbon monoxide poisoning can lead to death.

To prevent carbon monoxide build up, it is important to have detectors installed and working properly in your home. Regular maintenance and inspection of gas powered appliances will also ensure all appliances are working properly and not releasing any carbon dioxide into the interior of your home. If you have noticed symptoms consistent with carbon monoxide poisoning, you should seek medical attention. You’ll also want to call Empire Plumbing for a professional inspection of your appliances to determine if there are any gas or carbon monoxide leaks and make repairs to keep your property safe. 

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