The heating mistake? Not changing your air filter.
The silent killer? The potentially fatal, odorless gas, carbon monoxide (CO).
Now you’re probably wondering, “What does changing my air filter have to do with carbon monoxide poisoning?”
Let us explain...
How a dirty air filter can lead to CO poisoning
Here’s the brief explanation: a clogged filter reduces air flow and causes your furnace heat exchanger to overheat and crack. Once the heat exchanger cracks, poisonous carbon monoxide can leak into your home.
Not sure what that all means? We’ll help break it down...
Dirty air filters restrict airflow
The purpose of your air filters is to catch dust and debris so it doesn’t reach your HVAC system. But over time these filters become clogged with dirt, which creates a thick wall of debris.
When air can’t pass through your filter, your furnace could experience a scary problem: restricted airflow.
Let’s look at what restricted airflow does to your furnace (and home)...
Restricted airflow causes the heat exchanger to overheat (and crack)
Your furnace heat exchanger (see image below) is the part that actually heats the air that comes into your home.
Now, your heat exchanger’s job is to get very hot then transfer its heat to the air that passes through your furnace. But, if no air is passing through the furnace (due to a clogged filter), the temperature of the heat exchanger rises and rises until it overheats and cracks...
A cracked heat exchanger leaks CO into your home
Heat exchangers can be made of a variety of metals: stainless steel, aluminum or iron alloys. But when exposed to enough heat, these metals can crack, which causes gases from the “combustion” process (when gas is burned to create heat) to leak out of the heat exchanger.
Once these gases from the heat exchanger leak out, they mix into the air that’s pushed back into your home—the air you breathe. The problem is these gases, which includes carbon monoxide, are very hazardous to your health...
Carbon monoxide: “the silent killer”
Carbon monoxide is called “the silent killer” because it’s odorless, colorless and tasteless. CO prevents the body from getting oxygen. If you’re exposed to enough of it for longer periods of time, it can cause…
- Loss of consciousness
- Brain damage
Early symptoms of CO poisoning are similar to the flu, and include signs like…
- Blurred vision
- Dull headaches
So needless to say, carbon monoxide isn’t a gas you want to have in your home. We’ll share a couple of ways to avoid it...
Want to avoid CO poisoning? Change your filter regularly and get a furnace check-up
Take a look at your air filter. Does it look like the one on the right in the photo below?
If so, it’s time to change it. To keep your furnace system running efficiently during the winter, we recommend you change your filter once a month—especially if your home gets really dusty.
Another way to prevent CO poisoning is to get a furnace check-up. We recommend homeowners get their furnace inspected by a professional every winter to make sure their heating system is working properly and safely. During a check-up, the technician can detect warning signs of overheating and see if your heat exchanger has cracked.
Safety tip: If you don’t have one already, be sure to install a carbon monoxide detector in your home. These detectors can sense CO when we humans can’t, so they can alert you if you do have carbon monoxide leaking into your home.