Safety & Care

Can a Furnace Leak Carbon Monoxide and Other Frequently Asked Questions?

Carbon monoxide poisoning is one of the major things people with gas furnaces should worry about. And when we say “major” that’s not because of the high likelihood of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning but because of how devastating the gas’ effects can be.

So, can your furnace leak the odorless and colorless carbon monoxide in your home without you realizing? Yes, it can.

Is it likely that your furnace leaks that deadly gas? If you take good care of your device, no. If you don’t take care of it – pretty much, yes.

Taking care of your gas furnace includes a series of simple but vital steps:

  • Perform a routine annual (preferably professional) maintenance of the unit before the start of the winter season.
  • Clean the furnace regularly and protect it from physical harm.
  • Change the air filters of the furnace often (depending on usage).
  • Install carbon monoxide detectors in your home.
  • Look out for the symptoms of monoxide poisoning such as fatigue and chest pain.

Here are a few others of the most frequently asked questions about CO leaks:

  1. How do I know if my furnace is leaking carbon monoxide?
    The easiest way to catch a carbon monoxide leak early is to have CO detectors installed in your home. If you’ve skipped that precaution, look out for soot, smoke, and fumes build-up, insufficient upward draft in the chimney, brown-yellow stains around the furnace, fires burning slower than normal, the pilot light blowing out too often, as well as physical symptoms such as chest pain and fatigue.
  2. Can carbon monoxide leak if the furnace is off?
    Technically – no. It’s the burning of a fuel that produces carbon monoxide, so if the furnace is off it won’t produce CO. However, there may be CO already distributed throughout your HVAC system which can keep leaking even after the furnace has been turned off. Plus, other fuel-burning appliances can also produce carbon monoxide while your gas furnace is off.
  3. Can an electric furnace produce carbon monoxide?
    No, carbon monoxide is produced by the burning of fuels, electric furnaces and other electric appliance don’t do that
  4. Can a broken furnace cause carbon monoxide?
    Broken furnaces are indeed the main cause of carbon monoxide leaks. That’s why routine maintenance and good care are essential – to prevent your furnace from malfunctioning.
    If you mean “broken” not as malfunctioning but as “not working at all”, then – no. A non-operational furnace that doesn’t burn fuel can’t produce CO. But if your furnace burns fuel and isn’t operating at its optimal capacity, the likelihood of a CO leak should not be ignored.
  5. Can a dirty furnace filter cause carbon monoxide?
    Dirt build-up is indeed one of the main symptoms of a carbon monoxide leak. Dirty air filters, in particular, make CO leaks very likely.

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