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Can Super-Cold Weather Possibly Be Good For Your Furnace?

Boston has warmed up from the super-cold temperatures leading up to the weekend, but this week promises to send temperatures back into a downward spiral. Colder temperatures mean that your furnace works harder, but is that bad for the furnace?

Hard Working Furnace Doesn’t Mean Furnace Repair

Furnaces are designed to work, and they’re designed to work hard! In fact, they actually work better and run more efficiently when they work for long stretches. Short cycling – when the furnace turns on and off repeatedly for short periods of time – is actually harder on your furnace than running for long periods of time with a solid rest between heating cycles.

Furnaces aren’t designed to short-cycle, so when your furnace repeatedly turns on and off, you will want to consult a qualified heating professional. There are many things that can cause a furnace to short-cycle, but here are some common causes.

Your furnace and ductwork need to be sized properly for your home. Having an undersized furnace or ductwork can put a lot of stress on your furnace, increase operational costs, decrease efficiency and shorten the life of your furnace. Likewise, when your ductwork is oversized, the blower doesn’t generate enough velocity to push air adequately through your ductwork, causing poor heating and air circulation in your home. Your home may feel cold all the time, and cause your furnace to work harder to heat your living space. A qualified heating professional can properly size the ductwork for your home and ensure that your furnace and ductwork are up to the task.

A major air leak in the home can cause the living space to cool much more quickly than it should. Major air leaks – something along the lines of a broken window or open door – should be obvious! If you can find and seal major air leaks, this should prevent the furnace from short-cycling.

Thermostats monitor the temperature in the space around them, so drafts and air leaks around the thermostat can cause it to turn on the furnace prematurely. Check the area around the thermostat carefully for drafts. You can also remove the thermostat from the wall and check for drafts in the wall space around the thermostat that might interfere with proper operation. You can safely insulate around the thermostat, and should consider that if you find a hidden draft in your wall. Also, consider relocating the thermostat to avoid outside walls, heat sources (like fireplaces and kitchens), direct sunlight and other conditions that can “fool” the temperature sensors in the thermostat.

Your new high-efficiency furnace may not work so well with your old thermostat. If you have installed a new furnace recently, consider installing a new thermostat to go along with it. Thermostats are relatively inexpensive, so if a new thermostat isn’t part of the package, consider upgrading to a Wi-Fi thermostat, like The Nest.

If your furnace is short-cycling or doesn’t keep your home warm and comfortable, contact us at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating. We can inspect your furnace and ductwork, test your furnace for proper operation and correct any problems that can cause short-cycling. We can also help you take advantage of programs designed to lower the cost of replacing your old furnace with a high-efficiency furnace. Contact us at (617) 288-2911 anytime. We offer 24-hour emergency service and can repair most makes and models of residential heating equipment.

Time to check the …. furnace?!

After last month’s heat wave, the last thing you might be thinking about is your furnace, but now is a great time to consider furnace repairs. Boston forecasters are keeping their eyes on a currently weak El Nino that could produce below average temperatures and above-average snowfalls during the 2013-14 winter. Similar conditions in the past produced record snowfalls in Boston, including major storms in 2005 and 2010.

What does this mean for homeowners in Boston? Heating system maintenance and repairs should be added to your list of priorities now! The coldest, snowiest part of the winter probably won’t arrive in Boston until November, but that’s no reason to put off inspections and routine maintenance on your existing furnace or boiler.

If you’re looking to replace your heating equipment or convert from heating oil to natural gas, now is also a great time to make the switch. Currently, the price of heating oil is about $3.65 per gallon. The peak price for heating oil last winter was about $4.35 per gallon. Those costs alone might make conversion to natural gas a highly desirable alternative!

Gas Networks’ rebate programs can help defray the cost of replacing a highly inefficient working, older furnace or boiler. High efficiency units cost less to replace than you might think and use less fuel during operation. That means you save when you install a new gas furnace or boiler and you save each time you heat your home. With a high efficiency unit, most of the fuel it uses is converted to heat for your home. With older, inefficient models, most of the fuel it uses is sent up the chimney!

Gas Networks’ rebates on furnaces and boilers have varying deadlines. Early boiler replacement rebates are only available through September, and a site inspection must take place before August 31, 2013 to qualify, so you may need to act now if you want to take advantage of one of these excellent rebate opportunities. As an added incentive, your high-efficiency heating equipment purchase may also qualify you for 2013 residential energy tax credits on your federal income tax return.

Ultimately, forecasters don’t yet know what the winter of 2013-14 will bring, but making sure your heating system is ready for the coming cold is never a bad idea! Give us at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating a call at (617) 288-2911 to set up an inspection and maintenance appointment on your heating equipment. Whether you heat with a boiler or furnace, we can help! We can also consult with you on oil-to-gas conversion and perform the inspections required to take advantage of the Gas Networks rebate program.

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DOE Rule Regarding 80%- Efficient Furnaces Set To Take Effect May 1

The US Department of Energy has issued Regional Efficiency Standards in the Northern Region (including Boston) that effectively prohibit the sale or installation of gas forced-air furnaces that are 80% efficient beginning May 1, 2013. This rule, if allowed to take effect, may have some undesirable consequences for consumers who purchase a new furnace in Boston after May 1. In some extreme cases, the regulations may actually prevent homeowners in Boston from installing the high efficiency furnaces the rule was intended to promote!

Essentially, the rule permits the installation of only high-efficiency furnaces – those above 90%. High efficiency furnaces operate somewhat differently than lower-efficiency models, and may have different installation requirements that will force consumers to spend more for heating equipment and installations.

The furnaces allowed under the rule must be vented to the outside of the home, using separate fresh air intakes and exhaust ports. An existing chimney may be used to vent exhaust gases from the furnace only if it has been lined with a special liner that reduces heat transfer to the surrounding home and prevents the corrosive byproducts of combustion from damaging the masonry.

High efficiency furnaces can also be vented to the outside of the home via PVC piping. PVC piping is less expensive than lining an existing chimney, but PVC is not without its own concerns. Heated PVC can release toxic fumes in a process known as “outgassing.” Stainless steel piping can be substituted for PVC piping, but the use of a stainless steel exhaust port requires a special adapter on the furnace, and adds to the cost of the installation.

In some historic homes, the high efficiency ventilation requirements may prove to be either cost-prohibitive or technically impossible. Historic homes, especially those with multiple tenants in a single structure, may not provide enough options for venting to the back of the building, out through the roof, or through an existing chimney. This may be especially true where other buildings stand immediately adjacent to a structure, and eliminate the possibility of venting out a sidewall.

The ventilation problem may be compounded over time if multiple tenants want or need to install new furnaces. As more tenants install new furnaces, fewer ventilation options remain for future installations. Without outside ventilation options, future installations may require the complete conversion of a home’s heating system to a technology such as electric heat, which does not require outside ventilation.

Several trade groups in the heating and cooling industry have offered an alternative solution, which has not yet been considered or accepted by the Department of Energy. The groups filed suit in a federal Appeals Court seeking an injunction to block the Regional Efficiency Standards in the Northern Region from taking effect on May 1. As of this writing, the Appeals Court has not considered arguments in the case. If the court does not act prior to May 1, the rule will be implemented as written.

If you are considering the installation of a high-efficiency furnace, your window of opportunity to purchase a lower-efficiency (less costly) option is set to close on May 1st 2013. According to the DOE rules, no 80% efficiency furnaces may be sold, purchased or installed after that time. While higher-efficiency units will save money on operational costs, they also cost more to purchase and install. The increased cost of these units may reduce or eliminate a more affordable option for heating your home and saving money at the same time.
If you are considering furnace replacement but want to buy and install an 80% efficient model, you may have only a limited opportunity to do that. Please call Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911 immediately to schedule a consultation. We can explain purchase and installation options, and provide you with financing options that can help you determine the best heating choices for your home.

Ventilation Is Important For Heating Equipment

Last week, I discussed the need to keep plumbing ventilation free from obstructions, and what can happen to vents that are blocked, disconnected or improperly installed. This week, I want to focus on proper ventilation for heating equipment. Boston has had an unusual amount of snow this winter, and that can increase the need to provide maintenance for your heating vents.

Home heating equipment is designed to work with ventilation of some type. Most heating fuels create toxic gases as a byproduct of combustion, and these noxious gases are vented safely out of the home through the chimney. Preventing accidental exhaust escape is key to keeping a home and its occupants safe.

High efficiency heating equipment must have both intake and exhaust ventilation ports. These ports must be kept free of debris and must not be obstructed by the buildup of snow, ice, or stored objects. Reducing the airflow into and away from the heating unit can cause operating problems, decreased efficiency, unexpected equipment shutdowns, and improper venting of exhaust gases back into the living space.

Keep all heating vents clear of obstructions at all times. Maintain a 3′ clear, unobstructed space around any heating vents that exit the sidewall of your home. During heavy snowfalls, make sure that the vents are open and unobstructed. This may involve clearing away snow and ice that could be accumulating around the vent pipes. If you find that you are often required to clear accumulating snow and ice away from your heating intake and exhaust ports, you may want to consider moving the ports to a more sheltered location, or venting your heating equipment through the roof of your home.

One special note about chimneys: chimneys are generally designed to reduce or eliminate the possibility of obstruction by organic materials and debris that might otherwise enter the opening at the top of the chimney. Chimneys can become blocked or obstructed over time by the build-up of ash, creosote and other physical by-products of combustion. They can also be obstructed by the deterioration of the chimney itself. If your heating equipment vents out of the chimney, have your chimney inspected periodically for signs of deterioration, and correct any problems you find.

If you have a fireplace or wood-burning stove that you use for supplemental heat, pay special attention to your chimney(s). Creosote, which is a product of the incomplete combustion of wood or coal, can accumulate inside a chimney over time. The accumulation of creosote in the chimney reduces the chimney’s ability to draft air upward. This, in turn, reduces the overall amount of air available to the wood/fuel, which lowers the temperature of the fire and promotes the production of creosote. Over time, it creates the conditions that lead to chimney fires. Before each heating season, have your fireplace or wood-burning stove inspected. Check the flue for proper operation, and monitor the build up of creosote.

Replacing older, low-efficiency heating equipment with high-efficiency models can reduce or eliminate the need for supplemental heat, and can make your home safer during the winter heating season.

For more information about high-efficiency home heating equipment, rebates, special financing programs and tax credits that you may be able to take advantage of, please contact us at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911. We’ll be happy to assess your current heating equipment and show you how you can save money on your winter heating bills.

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Proper Ventilation Extremely Important In Weather Extremes!

Ventilation, whether for plumbing fixtures or heating and cooling equipment, is vital to proper operation! Blocked plumbing vents can cause unpleasant odors to escape into the home, and can interfere with proper drainage. Blocked ventilation ducts for heating and cooling systems can cause a range of problems, including improper venting of noxious gases, improper fresh air intake, and decreased efficiency, which translates into higher operating costs.

Plumbing vents are connected to a home’s plumbing system and exit the home through the roof. These vents must be kept open to ensure that the plumbing system operates properly in a home. When the home’s plumbing vents are clear, gravity drains plumbing fixtures in a controlled fashion, leaving behind some water in each fixture’s trap. The residual water acts as a barrier between the top of the plumbing fixture (sink drain, bathtub drain, toilet bowl, etc) and the waste water pipe. This residual water prevents sewer gases from traveling “backwards” through the plumbing and escaping into the living space.

Organic debris from falling leaves and animal nests can cause a ventilation duct to become partially or completely blocked. In addition, prolonged below-freezing temperatures and increased snow accumulation can cause frost to build up on the plumbing vent.

The symptoms of blocked plumbing vents include the escape of unpleasant sewer gases into the home and drainage problems. When a plumbing vent is blocked, the drain empties completely or almost completely due to a phenomenon known as siphoning. When a drain siphons, the water drains with significant force, and the water that should remain in the trap is instead removed. Without the water in the trap, sewer gases can escape from the drain and foul the living space.

Usually a drain that is siphoning makes a significant amount of noise when water is present. Visually, you may also see a “whirlpool” created around the drain that allows the drain to admit both water and air into the drainpipe. In addition, an improperly vented drain will drain noticeably faster than one that is properly vented. Loud noises during drainage can indicate that a plumbing vent is blocked or partially blocked. The increased rate of drainage is due to the additional force that is pulling water through the drainpipe.

To correct a blocked ventilation pipe, manually inspect the vent and remove any debris that may have accumulated in the pipe. Do not cap or cover the vent stack, as they are required to remain open. If the vent is blocked due to frosting, you may not need to do anything special, as the first increase in temperature will melt the accumulated frost.

If your plumbing vent regularly frosts, you may want to modify the plumbing vent to widen out at the point of exit from the roof. Wider vent terminals tend to discourage complete frosting. Keep tree branches away from your roofline at all times to reduce the amount of organic debris that might accumulate otherwise.

If you have a blocked plumbing vent that you cannot clear on your own, contact us at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911 for assistance!

In my next post, I’ll discuss the importance of keeping ventilation pipes for heating and cooling equipment clear.

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Heavy Snow Could Tax High Efficiency Furnaces

The National Weather Service is predicting the possibility of a massive weekend snowstorm in Boston. High-efficiency furnace owners should take note! Heavy snowfalls can interfere with the proper operation of high-efficiency furnaces, but a few simple precautions can help keep your furnace working properly, even in bad weather.

Like conventional furnaces, high efficiency furnaces exhaust waste gases directly to the outside of the home. Unlike conventional furnaces, high efficiency furnaces also take in fresh air from outside the home. The free movement of fresh air and furnace exhaust gases is critical to the safe, proper operation of a high-efficiency unit.

The high efficiency intake and exhaust ports may be separate pipes or they may be a combined unit called a concentric vent terminator. This vent design provides isolated fresh air and exhaust capabilities in a single unit. The concentric vent terminator can be used in either a horizontal (through the wall) or vertical (through the roof) configuration. Homeowners and installers alike often prefer the concentric vent terminator because this approach requires only a single hole to be made in a home’s exterior wall, or through the home’s roof.

For those homeowners whose high-efficiency units exit through separate pipes through the side of the home, significant snowfall can interfere with the free flow of air through the intake and exhaust ports. This can, in turn, cause snow and ice to accumulate in and around the ports, and reduce or completely block air flow to the furnace. The ultimate result is that the unit will shut down, probably just when you need it most!

As a general rule, keep a 3′ area around your high-efficiency intake and exhaust ports clear of snow, organic debris (including decorative landscaping), and other objects. Do not stack or store items around the intake and exhaust ports for your high efficiency furnace and remove snow buildup periodically during a storm to prevent icing.

Your intake port should have been installed above the “snow line” – at least 1′ above grade. If your intake port is not at least one foot above the ground, clear the area regularly throughout a storm to ensure that snow buildup and icing don’t affect the operation of the furnace. When your resources permit, consider having the intake port raised to at least 1′ above grade to prevent future problems.

Keeping your exhaust port clear is also very important. The exhaust port allows toxic by-products of combustion to exit the home safely. As with the intake port, maintain a clear 3′ perimeter around the exhaust port. Don’t stack or store items in this space and clear away snow accumulation regularly to allow the exhaust gases to escape your home safely.

A distance of up to 3′ should separate your intake and exhaust ports. If your intake and exhaust ports are right next to each other, your intake port could be admitting contaminated exhaust air back into your home. The concentric vent terminator is an exception to this, but this vent is designed specifically to keep fresh and exhaust air separate. If your intake and exhaust vents are right next to each other, consider having one of the ports moved, or consider having a concentric vent terminator installed to prevent possible exhaust gas contamination of your furnace’s intake air.

As a side note to heat pump owners – your heat pump condenser can also leave you out in the cold if you don’t take proper precautions during a storm. Some heat pump condensers have a special defrost mode that you can engage to ensure that your condenser remains frost-free. Some defrosters are automatic, while others work on a timer that you can adjust.

If you have a timed, adjustable defroster on your heat pump condenser, set the defrost timer to turn on every 30 minutes during the storm to reduce frost buildup. (Some frosting is normal, but a heavy layer of frost isn’t!)

To keep your heat pump happy, make sure the condenser area is clear of debris and objects that will restrict air flow to the condenser unit before the snow starts to fall. As with a high-efficiency furnace, keep a clear, 3′ perimeter around the outdoor unit.

Clear away snow buildup on the unit regularly to prevent melting snow from turning to ice. Do not cover, block or obstruct the unit while snow is falling, however.

With this particular storm system, the National Weather Service is predicting between 1′-2′ of snow on Friday and Saturday, and is predicting freezing rain or sleet on Monday. Freezing rain is a known hazard to heat pump condensers. If ice buildup is preventing the unit’s fan from operating properly, shut the unit down and clear the ice manually, or let it melt on its own.

Do not attempt to break or chip the ice that has accumulated on the unit; this could cause expensive damage to the copper piping. Instead, use warm water to melt away the ice buildup. (Make sure the water you’re using is draining away from the unit!) If the water you’re using to de-ice your condenser doesn’t drain away from the unit properly, clear the gutters on the unit or move the water away manually before it freezes.

If you cannot unfreeze your heat pump condenser, give us a call at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911. We offer true, 24-hour emergency service, and we’ll restore the heat to your home.

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Boston Standard Plumbing Receives 2012 Angie's List Super Service Award

We’re pleased to announce that for the third year in a row, Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating has received the Angie’s List Super Service Award. The award recognizes the top five percent of all companies rated on Angie’s List during the year. Angie’s List is a member-based organization that provides consumer reviews on a wide variety of local service providers.

The awards, which were announced in late December, are given to service providers based on the number of member reviews they’ve received, the ratings given by list members, and the recipients’ ability to follow Angie’s List operational guidelines.

We’re very proud of the service we deliver at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating, and we’d like to thank our customers for their continued support. We work hard to provide the best quality heating, cooling and plumbing products, and the outstanding service that our customers have come to know and expect.

We offer true 24-hour end-to-end emergency response services. What we mean is that when you call us – no matter what time of the day or night – the first person you talk to is a trained, certified, licensed and insured plumbing, heating and cooling professional. We don’t turn our phones over to an answering service, so we can respond immediately to your plumbing, heating and cooling emergencies.

Our fully stocked trucks are ready to roll around the clock. We keep a wide range of the most commonly needed parts in stock, so you won’t have to wait on parts to get your repair work completed. We have the staff to handle both large and small repairs, and we provide “bottom-line” quotes before we start work, so you won’t be left wondering about labor costs and time estimates.

Plumbing, heating and cooling repairs are rarely convenient and can be messy! We also take care while we work in your home, and won’t leave a mess behind. We cover your floors and items in the work area to protect them from dust, dirt and debris. We also use shoe-covers to avoid tracking dirt and debris from the work area through your home.

We offer a wide variety of the highest quality heating and cooling products, and provide certified installation services that can help you save money while keeping your home comfortable and safe. We are fully licensed and insured, so you can be confident that you’ll get the expertise you need to safely correct heating, cooling or plumbing problems in your home.

Count on Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating when you’re contemplating major system revisions, like oil-to-gas conversions, tankless water heater installations, boiler service, and central air conditioning installations or replacements. We can also provide you with a wide variety of money-saving options when your circumstances require something different. We can also help you take advantage of rebates and tax credits that are currently available for high-efficiency heating, cooling and domestic hot water systems.

When it comes to comfort and safety in your home, count on Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating, winner of the Angie’s List Super Service Award for three consecutive years! Contact us at (617) 288-2911 anytime for your plumbing, heating and cooling needs!

Massachusetts Tops List Of Most Energy-Efficient States

In a new report authored by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), Massachusetts was named the most energy-efficient state for the second year in a row. The report ranked states in six major areas, including utility and public benefits programs and policies; transportation policies; building energy codes; combined heat and power (CHP) policies; state government-led initiatives around energy efficiency; and appliance and equipment standards to determine which state should receive the top honor. The ACEEE also recognized California, New York, Oregon, Vermont, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Washington, Maryland, and Minnesota as highly energy-efficient states.

Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick cited the state’s efforts to reduce dependence on foreign energy sources and its pursuit of sustainable energy sources as key factors in the state’s overall efficiency rankings. In addition to making the state more energy-independent, the governor also stated that the Green Communities Act is contributing to the state’s employment rate and the overall health of its economy.

According to the report, most states are making some progress toward improving energy efficiency, with electricity efficiency receiving the most funding. Another area of interest to consumers and one that contributes significantly to improved energy efficiency is oil-to-gas conversion. The cost of heating oil is expected to rise significantly over the 2012-13 winter heating season, with many analysts predicting a per-gallon fuel price that will approach $4.50. In contrast, an abundant supply of natural gas has driven the price of that commodity to a 10-year low. Consumers in Massachusetts could not only improve their energy efficiency by switching to natural-gas fired heating equipment, they could also save an average of nearly $2,000 in heating expenditures over the winter.

Boston-area homeowners can still take advantage of 0% financing programs offered by MassSave on the purchase of certain high-efficiency furnaces. MassSave will make as much as $25,000 available to qualified borrowers on a “same-as-cash” basis. Earlier this year, homeowners were also offered the opportunity to receive huge rebates on high-efficiency gas-powered replacement boilers.

If replacing your heating equipment isn’t in the cards, you can still improve the efficiency of your current system with a program of regular maintenance and inspections. Clogged filters and dirty heat exchangers can significantly reduce the efficiency of forced air furnaces. Boilers should also be inspected and should undergo routine maintenance to ensure proper operation before every heating season.

If you would like more information about high-efficiency heating equipment, 0%-financing through MassSave or an oil-to-gas conversion, contact us at Boston Standard Plumbing and Heating at (617) 288-2911 anytime. We can arrange an on-site inspection of your current heating equipment and explain all available options. We also perform regular seasonal maintenance and provide repair services for most types of heating equipment.

Does Changing Your Furnace Filter Really Matter?

Your forced-air furnace has a filter that helps catch dust and debris. Ultimately, the filter prevents this material from being distributed through the ductwork. Most forced-air furnaces have disposable filters, although you can buy cleanable filters you can re-use. Furnace manufacturers recommend that the filter be cleaned or changed monthly for best performance. For homeowners in Boston, furnace maintenance is key to keeping your furnace working properly.

But what’s the harm in not changing your filter? Aside from the fact that the filter will become clogged with dust and debris, your furnace will also have to work harder to get air through the clogged filter. Your hard-working, high-efficiency furnace will become less efficient (which costs you more money) and over time, you can actually reduce the lifespan of important furnace components.

Furnace filters are sized to fit the furnace you use, so the first rule of thumb is to use the correct size filter for your furnace. You can usually purchase disposable furnace filters at your local home improvement store. Check your owner’s manual to determine the correct filter size for your unit, and buy enough filters each fall to get you through the heating season.

Changing the furnace filter (usually once per month) isn’t hard, but it is possible to install the filter backwards. Normally, filters are marked to indicate which side of the filter should face up/out, so be sure you know which direction you’re supposed to install the filter.

Don’t attempt to clean or re-use disposable filters. They aren’t meant to be cleaned, and there’s really no good way to get the accumulated dust and debris out of the filter. In addition, trying to dislodge the dust and debris mechanically can actually deposit the particles right back into the air. When you’re done with a filter, carefully place the used filter in a trash bag and send it on its way.

At the end of the heating season, place a new filter into your furnace. That way, when heating season starts up in the fall, your filter will be good to go. The same trick applies to your air conditioner. Change the filter at the end of the season so a dirty filter isn’t waiting for you the next time you want to use the unit.

If you just can’t remember to change your filter, write it on your calendar or send yourself a monthly email reminder. Google Calendar is a great (and free) way to remind yourself of this simple-yet-important task!

If you have any questions about your heating and cooling systems, or need help finding or changing your filter, contact Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911 anytime. We can schedule an inspection right away and help you get your heating (and cooling) filter maintenance routine set up.
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Heating Season Can Bring Added Hazards

We’re in the middle of heating season in Boston, and with the economy being as tight as it is, this information bears repeating: carbon monoxide (CO) dangers are sharply increased, so it makes sense to pay attention to what you may not see, feel or even recognize!

CO is a colorless, odorless gas. It can be a natural by-product of combustion and it will kill you, your family or anyone else it comes in contact with. CO is usually vented out of homes through the chimney or other direct-vent system. You’ll encounter it wherever you burn natural gas or other fuels (like wood, charcoal, kerosene or oil) for heat.

In the winter, some people attempt to use their gas stoves as an alternative, supplemental or even a primary heat source, especially during power outages. They rationalize that it should be safe, since the gas that flows from the burner is “completely” consumed, doesn’t require additional venting and shouldn’t pose a hazard to humans.

Nothing is farther from the truth. Gas stoves used as heat sources can certainly cause carbon monoxide build-ups in the home and should never be used for anything other than cooking. Your kitchen should also be equipped with ventilation equipment to prevent CO buildup from cooking. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has determined that CO in concentrations as little as 100 parts per million is hazardous to human health. In other words, it doesn’t take much CO to put you and your family at risk.

New building codes now require CO sensors to operate in close proximity to unvented gas-burning appliances (like stoves), but these rules don’t apply to existing structures and existing gas-burning equipment.

A common misconception about CO poisoning is that it happens over a long period of time. Actually, CO poisoning can happen in a matter of minutes. Long-term exposure to CO can cause permanent heart and neurological problems. The very young and very old are also at increased risk of experiencing permanent physical damage from CO exposure.

You should recognize the symptoms of CO poisoning and make sure your home has working CO detectors at all times. The most common symptoms of CO poisoning are dizziness and nausea, shortness of breath, mild headaches, light-headedness, chest pain, confusion, agitation, visual changes, hallucinations and impaired judgment.

If you begin to experience any of these symptoms, or encounter someone else who is, it’s important to get that person outside immediately. If the symptoms improve with exposure to fresh air, do not return to the building. Instead, call 911 for medical assistance and have the affected person(s) medically evaluated at a hospital. Your local fire department will vent the affected space and attempt to locate the source of the CO leak.

If you have experienced a CO leak, have all of your fuel-burning appliances checked by a heating and cooling professional before returning them to service.

CO leaks in appliances can happen without warning, or they can be the result of deferred maintenance over a long period of time. The heating and cooling professionals at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating can help you maintain your heating and cooling equipment and avoid CO mishaps. Contact us at (617) 288-2911 to schedule an inspection of your heating and cooling equipment today.