Understanding Carbon Monoxide Risks with Natural Gas – And How to Protect Yourself

There are two main risks with gas piping systems. Both are rare, but important to be aware of. The first is a gas leak which can lead to fire and explosion. The second risk is carbon monoxide, which is often called a “silent killer” because it can have dangerous, or even fatal results with little warning.

Carbon monoxide (CO) is produced as a result of burning. When gas appliances in your home convert fuel into heat, they are burning the fuel, which results in a release of carbon monoxide as a byproduct. Trace amounts of carbon monoxide are harmless, but any event that causes carbon monoxide to build up can lead to harmful consequences.

How to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning in Your Home 

There is naturally some carbon monoxide in the air, including indoors, but in such small amounts that it has no effect. The federal standard for the maximum allowable amount of carbon monoxide is 9 parts per million. While indoor levels are often somewhat higher in metropolitan areas like NYC due to local pollution, they still generally fall far below this.

The challenge with CO is that it is odorless, invisible, and does not cause irritation. Whether you have a trace amount or a harmful amount, there is no way that you can easily tell. But there are still several solutions that you can use to take avoid an accident with carbon monoxide:

  • Install Appliances Correctly – Because CO is a natural byproduct of burning, most gas appliances are designed to vent to the outdoors so they are not trapping CO inside. Be sure that appliances are installed correctly in your home and that nothing is blocking the vents.
  • Use Appliances Correctly – Incorrect use of appliances can result in CO entering your home. Avoid activities like us leaving your oven door open and using your oven to heat your home, or putting gas heaters in enclosed spaces. Follow the manufacturer’s directions and only use products in a way that matches their intended use. 
  • Install Carbon Monoxide Detectors – A carbon monoxide detector will monitor how much CO is in the air and alert you if the levels become harmful. You can install detectors around your house, particularly in areas that have gas appliances like your kitchen or boiler room. You should also test them regularly to make sure they are still working.
  • Know the Signs of CO Poisoning – CO causes the body to not get enough oxygen since you will be inhaling carbon monoxide instead. High levels of CO will eventually result in suffocation. The effects of CO poisoning can make you feel drowsy and disoriented, or cause headache, nausea, and shortness of breath. If you are regularly experiencing any of these, especially if symptoms lessen when you leave your home, you should call in a professional to test for CO. If symptoms are severe, you should go to the emergency room.
  • Maintain Good Ventilation – Ventilation in your home is key in dispersing excess carbon monoxide into the outdoors. Keeping windows open or installing ventilation as part of your HVAC system can help mitigate CO buildup.

Inspections of gas piping systems are another good way to ensure that your system is not releasing unwanted CO into the air. Empire Plumbing Inc is a gas piping system inspector in NYC that can locate any dangers with your gas system, from leaks to carbon monoxide. If you already suspect a leak or want to schedule an inspection to make sure your system is in good shape, contact our team.

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