Air conditioning is a godsend for modern homes in the scorching heat of summer or the bone-chilling cold of winter. It keeps us comfortable and allows us to escape the extremes of weather. However, amidst the comfort it provides, there’s a hidden danger that we must be aware of – carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.

Carbon monoxide is an odourless, colourless gas that various household appliances, including air conditioning systems, can produce. When not properly managed, it poses a grave risk to your health and safety. In this article, we’ll delve into the details of CO poisoning, explore how air conditioning systems can be a source of CO, and, most importantly, share essential tips on how to keep your home safe.

What is Carbon Monoxide?

Carbon monoxide, often called CO, is a toxic gas produced by incomplete combustion of carbon-containing fuels like wood, gasoline, natural gas, and oil. What makes it particularly dangerous is its ability to bind to haemoglobin in your blood, reducing the oxygen-carrying capacity of your red blood cells. This means that inhaling CO can deprive your vital organs, including your brain and heart, of oxygen, leading to severe health problems and even death.

CO can seep into your home through various sources, and it’s crucial to be aware of them to protect your family. Familiar sources include malfunctioning furnaces, gas stoves, fireplaces, and even your home’s air conditioning system.

Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Recognising the symptoms of CO poisoning is paramount because early detection can save lives. The signs can range from mild to severe and often mimic common illnesses like the flu. Symptoms to watch for include headaches, dizziness, nausea, shortness of breath, confusion, and loss of consciousness. In severe cases, CO poisoning can lead to coma or death.

How Air Conditioning Systems Can Produce Carbon Monoxide

You might wonder, “How can my air conditioner produce carbon monoxide?” It’s important to note that not all air conditioning systems pose this risk. Combustion-based systems, such as furnaces and heaters, typically produce CO. The furnace may share ductwork with the air conditioner in homes with central HVAC systems. If there are leaks or issues with the stove, CO can infiltrate the ducts and spread throughout your home when the AC runs.

Common Causes of CO Leaks in HVAC Systems

CO leaks in HVAC systems can occur during the cooling process in a few ways. One common cause is a cracked heat exchanger in the furnace. This component is responsible for heating the air circulating throughout your home. CO can escape into the air supply if it’s damaged or compromised.

Another potential source of CO leaks is a blocked or dirty chimney or flue. These components are responsible for venting combustion gases safely outdoors. When blocked, CO can back up into your home.

How To Avoid Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Regular Maintenance and Inspection

Regular maintenance and inspection are crucial to ensure your air conditioning system doesn’t become a source of CO. Hire a qualified technician to inspect your HVAC system annually. They should check for any signs of damage or wear and tear, especially on the furnace and heat exchanger. Regular maintenance can identify and address potential CO issues before they become serious.

Consider creating a checklist to remind yourself of maintenance tasks like changing air filters, cleaning vents, and inspecting the system for visible signs of damage.

Professional Installation and Servicing

Always hire qualified professionals when installing or servicing any combustion-based system, such as a furnace or water heater. Certified technicians have the knowledge and expertise to ensure proper installation and maintenance, minimising the risk of CO leaks. 

Don’t be tempted to DIY these installations or repairs; the stakes are simply too high regarding carbon monoxide safety. Make sure to find Air Conditioning Technicians in Adelaide for easier air conditioner installation.

Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Investing in carbon monoxide detectors is a vital step in safeguarding your home. Place CO detectors on every level of your home, especially near bedrooms. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for installation, which typically include positioning them at knee height and away from windows and doors.

Test the detectors monthly, replace the batteries annually, and replace the sensors every 5-7 years. Carbon monoxide detectors serve as an early warning system, alerting you to any dangerous levels of CO in your home.

Proper Ventilation

Proper ventilation is essential in mitigating the risk of CO buildup. Ensure that all fuel-burning appliances, including your air conditioner if it shares ductwork with a furnace, are adequately vented to the outside. Keep vents and flues clear of obstructions, and never block them with furniture or other objects.

In addition, open windows and doors periodically to let fresh air circulate through your home, especially if you’re using fuel-burning appliances or have concerns about indoor air quality.

Safety Tips for Using Portable Air Conditioners

Ventilation for Portable AC Units

If you’re using portable air conditioners, proper ventilation is crucial. These units expel warm air through an exhaust hose, and if that hot air doesn’t have a clear path to the outside, it can create negative pressure indoors, potentially drawing in CO from other sources.

To prevent this, ensure the exhaust hose is connected correctly and leads directly outside. Keep doors and windows closed in your cooling room to maintain adequate ventilation.

In conclusion, air conditioning is a modern comfort we all cherish, but we must also be vigilant about the hidden danger of carbon monoxide poisoning. By understanding what CO is, recognising its symptoms, and taking steps to prevent its production and entry into our homes, we can enjoy the benefits of air conditioning safely.  Make sure to reach out to Carbon Monoxide Testing Services to avoid any kind of hazards and poisoning.

Remember, regular maintenance, carbon monoxide detectors, proper ventilation, and professional servicing are crucial to keeping your home CO-free. Share this vital information with your family and friends to ensure everyone can stay calm and safe in their homes.

All images: Supplied.

This is a sponsored article produced in partnership with Metropolitan Air Conditioning.