“What is carbon monoxide?”
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colourless, odourless, tasteless gas. It is most commonly formed during the combustion of hydrocarbon fuels, if there is insufficient oxygen available during the combustion process.
“Why is it so dangerous?”
CO is toxic to all Hemoglobic animals, humans included- basically any living thing that contains red blood cells. When it is breathed-in, CO enters the blood to produce carboxyhemoglobin.
This substance basically saturates the red blood cells, and leaves no space left for the blood to absorb oxygen. This situation is a medical emergency and is known as carbon monoxide poisoning.
“what are the symptoms of CO poisoning?”
Low-level exposure to CO is typically described as being “flu-like” and commonly include headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea / vomiting, chest pain and inability to think straight.
Large exposure can produce unconsciousness, irregular heartbeat, seizures or death.
“All very scary, but what does it mean to me…?”
Most residential homes located in climates including a cold winter, are heated during the cooler months with natural-gas burning appliances. Correctly-operating heaters produce two main by-products, or “products of combustion” when the gas is burnt- carbon dioxide and water-vapour (steam). These two “products of combustion” are both non-toxic. This process continues as long as the appliance has been installed correctly, and also is regularly maintained.
Most CO-related problems arise primarily due to a lack of regular maintenance.
A poorly maintained appliance can develop a build-up of lint / debris inside the burner mixing-tube. This build-up reduces the amount of air that is drawn into the burner, to burn along with the gas. This results in the combustion process becoming “rich”- that is, the usual ratio of air : gas,
which should be 10 : 1, changes, with too little air being burnt along with the gas.
This change in the air : gas ratio results in the products of combustion changing, when once carbon dioxide was produced (a relatively harmless gas), now this changes to carbon monoxide, which is lethal in trace amounts.
From now on, all it takes is to have a further problem, such as a cracked heat-exchanger, a blocked flue, even new, added exhaust-fans installed in the house, and the potential is there for CO to enter the property, instead of being correctly removed by the appliance and flue system.
“So how do I stay safe…?”
The moral of this story- regular maintenance is all you need to safely use your gas heating appliance, without the worry of dangerous situations arising. At Cats Plumbing & Gas Services, we are always on hand to help out with any needs you may have for heater servicing in Geelong.
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Cats Plumbing & Gas Services are happy to help you with carbon monoxide testing, anywhere in the Greater Geelong Area. If you think you have a carbon monoxide issue, don’t risk it! Call us today on 0458 112 211.