There are many reasons why homeowners love gas heating systems. They are not only relatively more energy-efficient, reliable but equally guarantee consistent and uninterrupted warmth. They are also durable and with proper maintenance, a gas heater can potentially serve you your home or business for an extended period.
However, despite their numerous benefits, gas heating units do come with their fair share of limitations. And one of the disadvantages that you will have to contend with is the production of harmful carbon monoxide gas. Gas heaters typically heat a room or an outdoor space by burning natural gas, propane, butane or liquefied petroleum gas. When gas fuel burns, it will produce air pollutants as well as water vapour. These unique devices can be broadly categorized into either flued or unflued.
A flued gas heater vents the resulting water vapour and the other pollutants including carbon monoxide outside your home through a flue or chimney. On the other hand, unvented gas heaters release these pollutants directly into your immediate environment. This implies that an unflued gas heater has the potential to cause massive air pollution in your home, and this can be hugely detrimental to your health. The levels of carbon monoxide produced by your gas heater will typically vary depending on:
- How properly your gas heater is installed.
- How often do you service, repair and maintain the heater.
- The type of heating device you use.
- Size of the room being heated.
- The level of ventilation in the room.
Carbon monoxide is a highly toxic gas usually formed during the complete combustion of carbon-based fuels. It is colourless, odourless, tasteless and non-irritating gas which is very difficult to detect. When inhaled, it can cause toxic effects in human beings by depriving your body of oxygen. It can also impair reflexes and cognitive function. The levels of CO will always tend to rise in homes where the unvented gas heater is in use. Furthermore, space heaters that are not installed properly or those that are damaged or faulty can potentially release CO and other toxic fumes into your room, consume all the oxygen inside that room and result into serious health concerns. This is why it is highly advisable to have your gas heater routinely inspected, repaired and serviced by a highly qualified and well-trained HVAC technician.
Common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headaches, nausea, weakness, chest pain, dizziness, confusion, shortness of breath and tiredness. If you suspect that you may be affected by this dangerous gas, you are advised to turn off the device immediately, open the windows and doors and seek medical attention as fast as possible! You’ll want to have your gas heater serviced and repaired before using it again.
It is imperative to mention that one cause of CO poisoning from unvented heaters, which is incomplete combustion as a result of sufficient oxygen, has been virtually eliminated by the invention of new heaters that use (ODS) or oxygen depletion sensors. Unfortunately, this unique device doesn’t respond to incomplete combustion caused by poor equipment installation, improper gas pressure, presence of dirt or rust on your burner, disruption of the burner by air currents and other uncontrollable factors. This means that CO poisoning from unflued gas heaters is still a huge concern.
Tips on how to safely use your gas heater:
- Have qualified professionals conduct a carbon monoxide test in your home regularly.
- Consider installing functional CO alarm as a safety measure.
- If you are using an unflued gas heater, don’t use it in a bedroom, bathrooms or any other confined space and minimize its daily use as well.
- Only use gas heaters in well-ventilated spaces.
- Always follow all the available operation and maintenance instructions carefully.
- Have your gas heating unit checked, serviced or repaired every two years by a licensed gas fitter.