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Carbon Monoxide Hauntings | CO & Furnace Safety

by Daniel Estevao on October 28, 2016

carbon monoxide hauntings - CO safety adviceMany apparent ghost and haunted house stories can be traced back to a carbon monoxide leak. Before the many dangers of CO poisoning were known, the effects of CO poisoning were often attributed to ghosts and supernatural spirits.

In fact, a Halloween episode of This American Life from 2006 recounted a haunted house story that turned out to be the result of a carbon monoxide leak from the family’s furnace:

“The adults and the children are held down in their beds by unseen figures. Beds shake. Their plants die. They and their children feel weak and they have no energy. They get severe headaches… A quick investigation shows that the furnace is actually sending carbon monoxide fumes into the house, instead of up the chimney. They fix that and the ghostly hauntings stop. They don’t feel sick any more either, which makes a lot of sense.”

If you are hearing and seeing things, feeling zapped of energy, and sense a strange presence at home, it may be due to a carbon monoxide leak.

Carbon monoxide is produced whenever fuel is burned, whether it be gas, oil, wood, or charcoal. Since carbon monoxide is colorless and odorless gas, it’s impossible to detect without a CO detector.

Symptoms of Carbon MOnoxide Poisoning

If you are experience any of these “hauntings,” you may be a victim of CO poisoning:

Early Symptoms:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Giddiness
  • Nausea

Worsening Symptoms:

  • Weakness and Lack of Energy
  • Blurred Vision
  • Fast Heart Rate and Breathing
  • Hallucinations

Danger Signs: 

  • Heart Problems and Chest Pains
  • Seizures and Convulsions
  • Collapse and Loss of Consciousness
  • Coma
  • Death

What to do if you have a CO leak:

If you have any suspicions of a CO leak in your house, evacuate everyone in the building immediately and then call 911 from a safe distance. If you are already feeling symptoms of CO poisoning (many people describe flu-like symptoms), get to the emergency room as quickly as possible.

Even small amounts of carbon monoxide can cause irreparable damage, including brain and organ damage. See a doctor immediately if there is any evidence of carbon monoxide leaks in the home.

While it may seem as though there are dark forces at work, it’s probably just a faulty furnace. You want to make sure you address CO leaks immediately as exposure can lead to death very quickly.

Common Sources of Carbon Monoxide Leaks

  • Cars, Trucks, and Other Engines
  • Fireplaces
  • Wood Stove
  • Oven
  • Dryer
  • Water Heater
  • Generators
  • Furnace
  • Fuel-Burning Appliances

Carbon Monoxide Safety Tips

Carbon monoxide poisoning increases in the fall and winter when we are spending more time indoors. Take heed of these carbon monoxide safety tips:

  • Schedule professional heating maintenance every fall. Sign up for a Home Maintenance Plan to automate this important home maintenance task.
  • Never run engines in an enclosed area such as the garage, even if doors and windows are open.
  • Be careful of any engines that are left running, even if they are on the side of the house. The CO produced could end up wafting through doors and windows and affect anyone inside.
  • If you need to warm up your vehicle during winter weather, start the car and immediately drive it out of your garage to let it idle.
  • If fuel-burning appliances haven’t been installed properly, you are at risk for a CO leak. This is why you should always spend the money on important home services such as HVAC, plumbing and electrical, where shoddy work can lead to huge safety issues.
  • Inspect fireplace, chimney, and flues before each heating season to make sure they are properly sealed and not blocked.
  • Remember to change your air filter every 30-60 days to increase airflow in your HVAC system and prevent any air blockages and dust from dirtying up your unit, ductwork, and home. A blocked air filter increases your risk of CO poisoning.

When we increase our home’s insulation in the winter and keep doors and windows closed, we raise the risk of being a victim of CO poisoning. Fuel-burning heating systems are more likely to emit dangerous CO gases in enclosed areas with little ventilation. Newer homes normally have more ventilation problems because they are more insulated.

Although it may be tempting, never run your generator, grill, lawn equipment, or any engine indoors. These are meant to operate outdoors as the carbon monoxide produced will be able to diffuse through the atmosphere.

For more Carbon Monoxide Safety Tips, adhere to these NFPA tips and tricks:Carbon Monoxide Safety Tips - National Fire Protection Association

  • CO alarms should be installed in a central location outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home and in other locations where required by applicable laws, codes or standards. For the best protection, interconnect all CO alarms throughout the home. When one sounds, they all sound.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for placement and mounting height.
  • Choose a CO alarm that has the label of a recognized testing laboratory.
  • Call your local fire department’s non-emergency number to find out what number to call if the CO alarm sounds.
  • Test CO alarms at least once a month; replace them according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • If the audible trouble signal sounds, check for low batteries. If the battery is low, replace it. If it still sounds, call the fire department.
  • If the CO alarm sounds, immediately move to a fresh air location outdoors or by an open window or door. Make sure everyone inside the home is accounted for. Call for help from a fresh air location and stay there until emergency personnel.
  • If you need to warm a vehicle, remove it from the garage immediately after starting it. Do not run a vehicle or other fueled engine or motor indoors, even if garage doors are open. Make sure the exhaust pipe of a running vehicle is not covered with snow.
  • During and after a snowstorm, make sure vents for the dryer, furnace, stove, and fireplace are clear of snow build-up.
  • A generator should be used in a well-ventilated location outdoors away from windows, doors and vent openings.
  • Gas or charcoal grills can produce CO — only use outside.

Source: nfpa.org

Carbon Monoxide the Friendly Ghost-Detector

The only way to know if you have carbon monoxide leak in your home is to install CO detectors on every floor of your home and outside of every sleeping area.

Buy CO detectors that have been tested by an independent testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratory (UL).

Test your CO detectors every 30 days, along with you smoke alarms.

Always follow the manufacturer instructions when installing your CO detectors.

Watch this video from the NFPA for more information on Carbon Monoxide Dangers:

If you sense paranormal activity at home, call an HVAC professional to inspect your home for carbon monoxide leaks.

Schedule your regular HVAC tune-ups with Pacific Air Systems and we’ll make sure to investigate your heating and ventilation system to make sure everything is safe for your home and family.

For more carbon monoxide and heating safety tips for the holiday season, read our other blogs on the topic:

Heating Safety Tips for the Winter Holidays

Frightening Furnace Noises: Boom, Rattle, Pop!


Pacific Air Systems wishes you a safe and thrilling Halloween!

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