Importance of Interior Care
Chimneys that ventilate gas or oil furnaces or hot water heaters often look to be in good standing from the outside. However, the outside of a chimney isn’t always a reliable indicator of issues that may be developing within. Naturally, older chimneys weren’t created to accommodate today’s energy efficient appliances. So, it’s imperative to inspect both the outside and inside of a chimney for areas of concern.
A Look Inside
Without proper care, multiple issues can develop inside a chimney, such as acid-laden residue, erosion of liners, loose and falling bricks, water damage, flue blockage, and even carbon monoxide poisoning. Using your furnace chimney continuously without regular maintenance can lead to costly or possibly dangerous consequences.
Hazards of Neglected Chimney Problems
Illness or death caused by exposure to carbon monoxide or sulfur dioxide, unfortunately, has happened innumerable times. As the flue weakens, it becomes easier for gases to seep into your home. Chimney erosion, if left unchecked, causes partial or total collapse inside the chimney, which causes harmful gases to enter the home rather than be exhausted properly through the flue. Gas or oil furnace flues can’t be fixed unless you rebuild your chimney, so it’s important to schedule routine maintenance and keep important chimney safety information in mind.
Deaths & Injuries Related to Carbon Monoxide
Generally, consumers place a fair amount of sureness in the safety of their home heating systems. This confidence isn’t underserved, as the oil and gas industries have made landmark safety improvements over the years. Still, nationwide, over 200 people die each year from carbon monoxide, or ‘the silent killer’ – according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. In most or all of these cases, poor heating system ventilation is to blame. Some organizations place the number of yearly deaths caused by carbon monoxide poisoning at well over 1,000. The Journal of the American Medical Association, for example, estimates the number to be about 1,600.
Additionally, about 10,000 instances of injury occur each year due to carbon monoxide overexposure. Low-level yet prolonged carbon monoxide poisoning can be especially damaging, because its symptoms resemble common winter illnesses. Fatigue, nausea, dizziness, headaches, and depression, are all symptoms of overexposure. Unfortunately, carbon monoxide poisoning can be tricky to diagnose. As a result, many cases aren’t caught until irreparable damage to organs and tissues takes place.
Carbon Monoxide Formation in Chimneys
Carbon monoxide is not only dangerous, but also colorless, odorless, and a very real threat if your heating system isn’t properly ventilated. To better grasp vital chimney safety information, it’s important that you understand how carbon monoxide is formed in your heating system.
In your furnace, hydrocarbons (gas or oil) mix with the oxygen circulating in your home and burn to create a heat source. The hydrocarbons are burned nearly completely, creating fumes that are comprised of carbon dioxide and water vapor. However, this only occurs if your chimney is in good condition and functioning correctly. When furnaces don’t get enough oxygen due to lack of air circulation, or a broken component within the chimney, carbon monoxide is formed rather than carbon dioxide.
Effects on the Human Body
When given the choice between carbon monoxide and oxygen, the hemoglobin in our blood tends to gravitate toward carbon monoxide while ignoring oxygen. For this reason, carbon monoxide exposure, even low-levels, is especially dangerous. The protein hemoglobin and carbon monoxide bind together very easily, stifling the blood’s ability to transfer oxygen throughout your body. This leads to cell suffocation, which worsens with prolonged exposure to carbon monoxide.
As mentioned above, the side effects that accompany low-level exposure can easily lead to permanent damage to vital organs. Age plays a large role in susceptibility, putting infants and elderly individuals at an even greater risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are easily mistaken for common illnesses. Therefore, if you experience any persistent symptoms resembling a cold, flu, or depression, and feel you may be suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning, it’s important to consult a medical professional as quickly as possible.
Suspect You’re at Risk?
In the event you believe you’re at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, it’s vital that you ventilate your home and evacuate immediately. Be sure to get medical attention if it’s needed. Contact a utility company and ask for an emergency heating system inspection, which most companies are willing to provide if there’s a risk of carbon monoxide exposure. Make sure your heating system and chimney is evaluated by an experienced organization knowledgeable in area of chimney safety information, such as U.S. Chimney. We offer inspection and report services to residents of Brooklyn, NY, Long Island, NY, and Queens, NY.
Common Causes of Exposure
1) In comparison to older homes, contemporary houses are constructed with energy conservation in mind ? making them far more air tight. Drafts are less likely, causing any pollutants to remain in the air and circulate throughout the home. Plenty of oxygen is needed for furnaces and boilers to effectively burn fuel without creating carbon monoxide. In many cases, kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans are powerful enough to pull pollutants into a home from a heating system and chimney.
2) Modern gas and oil furnaces don’t always function properly when they’re hooked up to existing flues. Because high-efficiency heating systems and older flues aren’t synchronized to work correctly with one another, pollutants and byproducts can find their way into homes without much difficulty.
3) Damages and blockages inside a chimney, such as deteriorated flue liners, creosote buildups, debris, and animal nests, can create significant problems – especially when combined with the previously listed factors.
Why Maintenance is Crucial
Byproducts of combustion, such as carbon monoxide, that are created when gas and oil are burnt in heating systems are funneled out through a chimney’s connector pipe. Chimneys serve two main functions. One is to exhaust toxic gases. The second is to create airflow so fuels burn properly and heating systems function optimally. Chimneys that are incorrectly sized or aren’t readily maintained can lead to expensive and dangerous complications.
Gas & Oil Heating Systems
Natural gas burns cleanly; however, high-efficiency heating systems that run on gas can create issues. Fumes from contemporary natural gas heating systems are cooler and more vaporous, which creates higher levels of condensation. Because these vapors hold chlorides, which induce corrosion, flues can deteriorate and/or become clogged over time.
Yearly evaluations of oil flues are critical, as soot can build up easily, especially if the furnace isn’t functioning optimally or the airflow isn’t sufficient. Whether you have a gas or oil heating system, it’s important to take steps to ensure all toxic particles are being released out of the home, as opposed to inside of it.
Many organizations regularly encourage homeowners to have their chimneys inspected on a yearly basis to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning, such as the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Fire Protection Association, and the American Lung Association.
You can protect yourself and your family from exposure by adhering to chimney safety information and guidelines. Scheduling yearly maintenance, cleanings, and repairs is the most fail-safe method. U.S. Chimney offers a number of services to Brooklyn, NY, Long Island, NY, and Queens, NY homeowners. We’ll ensure your chimney is free of blockages, and your heating system is in good condition. In addition to routine maintenance, installing at least two carbon monoxide detectors ? one near the heating system and the other near the sleeping quarters ? is an acceptable backup system.