Being Green: Check fuel-burning appliances for CO

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, almost odorless, highly poisonous and flammable gas produced whenever any fuel such as gas, oil, kerosene, wood or charcoal is burned.

Discussion: Exposure to CO reduces the blood's ability to carry oxygen. If appliances that burn fuel are not working properly or are used incorrectly, dangerous levels of CO inside the home can result. Hundreds of people die accidentally every year from CO poisoning caused by malfunctioning or improperly used fuel-burning appliances. If you are planning to upgrade your HVAC system with fuel-burning appliances, ensure that you have the systems checked.

Application: As an odorless, colorless gas, the presence of CO in a home must be determined by a special test. To maintain a healthier living environment, any sources of CO must be eliminated. Carbon monoxide in the home is usually the result of fuel-burning appliances being improperly vented; fortunately once you determine the source, it is usually relatively simple to fix. Eliminating sources of CO is appropriate in any remodeling project or addition.

Benefits: The cost for CO detectors is minimal.

Challenges: Contractors may charge to locate the source, although most HVAC contractors are likely to perform this as part of their customer service. Fuel-burning appliances must be inspected and determined not to be a source of CO release to the interior of the home. The most common cause of CO is a cracked heat-exchanger core.

Information provided by Earth Advantage, an Oregon-based nonprofit organization that specializes in green building. Info:

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