Informational Guide

Can You Get Carbon Monoxide Poisoning From AC Units?

Studies have revealed that faulty air conditioning can cause carbon monoxide poisoning. Read on to learn more about diagnosing carbon dioxide in your AC.

by Josh M

People spend most of their lives in indoor spaces: offices, bedrooms, living rooms. That is why it is integral to ensure that your indoor environment is clean and safe.

Fortunately, air conditioner units help refine air quality. However, the question arises, are air conditioner units one hundred percent safe?

Danger Warning SignExplicitly speaking, can carbon monoxide come from the AC?

The answer can be found as you read on; however, studies have revealed that a faulty air conditioning system can cause carbon monoxide poisoning.

Therefore, installing a carbon monoxide detector with your AC is critical. Furthermore, you must also have an air conditioning technician inspect and maintain your central air conditioning system.

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas formed due to the partial burning of fuels. If exposed to it, carbon monoxide molecules replace the oxygen inside the bodies, leading to poisoning.

Since human senses cannot detect carbon monoxide, a hazardous concentration can build up without you even knowing. The only way to find out would be to get severely sick!

Moreover, when individuals turn seriously ill, the symptoms bear similarity to the common flu, causing the victims to ignore the early onset of carbon monoxide poisoning.

The CDC has estimated that approximately four hundred people die each year in the United States due to accidental exposure to the gas.

Why Do We Have Carbon Monoxide At Home?

Carbon monoxide is released when specific materials are burned. Homes with attached garages or appliances that burn fuel have higher chances of suffering carbon monoxide problems.

The most prevalent sources of carbon monoxide in our household include devices and appliances that burn fuel like:

  • Tobacco smoke
  • Clothes dryers
  • Furnaces or boilers
  • Fireplaces
  • Water heaters
  • Gas ovens and stoves
  • Generators, grills, lawn equipment, power tools
  • Motor vehicles
  • Wood stoves
Building with Several Mini Split AC Units in China

Can Air Conditioners Produce Carbon Monoxide?

No, the air conditioner does not produce carbon monoxide directly as that is the work of fuel-burning devices.

You may think this different for older units, asking yourself: “can window air conditioners produce carbon monoxide?”

It does not matter if your house has a central air conditioning unit, a window air conditioner, or a portable one; none of them are associated with producing carbon monoxide.

However, there are multiple other ways for carbon monoxide to leak into your house through a compromised AC unit, like the heating furnace of an HVAC system.

Signs Of A Carbon Monoxide Leak In Your Home

Although carbon monoxide is odorless and tasteless, there are multiple signs that you can observe to detect a carbon monoxide buildup or leakage in your house. Some of them are:

  • Brownish-yellow or sooty stains all over the appliance which is leaking
  • Smelly, stale, or stuffy air. Like the odor of something overheating or burning
  • Heavy condensation or dripping on the windows –a would-be key indicator if you took earlier measures to lower the moisture production. However, it can also imply that the setting of the humidifier is very high
  • Back-draft, smoke, soot, or fumes in the home from the fireplace, any fuel-burning equipment, or the chimney
  • Fallen soot in the fireplace
  • Absence of an ascending draft in the chimney flue
  • A pilot light that keeps blowing out
  • Slower burning than usual of solid fuel fires
  • The smell of unfamiliar gases in your home. Even though carbon monoxide is odorless, it is most often complemented with exhaust gases that you can smell.
  • Instead of the typical crystal blue flame, if your burner emits a yellow flame, you could be a victim of carbon monoxide leakage. However, this is not valid for fireplaces running on natural gas purposely generating yellow flame for aesthetic reasons.

If you are late in detecting a possible leak in your house and begin showing early onset symptoms of CO poisoning, it is time to act fast. These symptoms include:

  • Pounding of heart
  • Tightness across your forehead
  • Headache

However, in the event of advanced poisoning, the victim’s face turns extremely red, followed by weariness, dizziness, and mental changes.

Yet, a high concentration of carbon monoxide might cause the person to pass out before sensing any symptoms.

Air Conditioner (AC) Duct System

Preventing Carbon Monoxide Leaks: Safety Measures

Regular Maintenance

Arranging regularly scheduled maintenance services by a technician can help catch carbon monoxide problems and nipping them in the bud before the issue escalates. You can hire expert maintenance technicians to look for a possible carbon monoxide emission and help you patch your house or office up.

Professional Services

One of the most prevalent causes of carbon monoxide poisoning through a heating unit is improper repairs or installation. If you do not have experience in HVAC units and still you try to service them on your own, you may cause a leak by damaging your unit. The best way to stay safe is by letting a professional handle it.

Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Carbon monoxide detectors are as necessary for home safety as smoke detectors. You must install a sensor for carbon monoxide on at least each floor of your house. Most carbon monoxide poisoning cases occur when the family is asleep; therefore, installing detectors in bedrooms can jolt you out of slumber if there’s a leak.

Cars and Gas Tools

If, for some reason, you have to use a gas-powered appliance or tool – like a barbeque grill – never think of doing so inside your house. Ensure that you keep all fuel-burning objects outside during operation.

Furthermore, never leave your car on when it is inside the garage, even when the garage door is open.

People Also Ask (FAQ)

What other gases do air conditioners emit?

Whether you have a window AC, portable AC, or centralized air conditioner, they all have one thing in common: They release greenhouse gases, which are harmful as they diminish Earth’s ozone layer. Finding an energy-efficient model should also be a major consideration.

Will cracking a window help with carbon monoxide?

Cracking a window helps slow down carbon monoxide poisoning. It further allows for increased ventilation inside your house and expels most of the gases before inhaling them. Opening more than two windows ensures proper ventilation inside your home, further reducing the amount of gas inside the room.

Do carbon monoxide detectors give false alarms?

A carbon monoxide false alarm may not occur if the alarm is still in working order. Therefore, if your Carbon monoxide alarm is going off, it may have detected a destructive amount of carbon monoxide.

How long does AC gas last?

Considering there’s no leak, if you conduct proper maintenance and care of your air conditioning system, its life expectancy can go up to two decades. Negligence and poor maintenance can help in reducing the lifecycle of the air conditioner gas for five to ten years.

Why does my air conditioner smell like gas?

Even though natural gas is odorless, manufacturers add an aroma to alert users to a potentially dangerous leak. Therefore, if you smell any gas, there might be a problem.

Another reason for the air conditioning smelling is that you might have a dead animal or a pest problem in the attic or the ductwork. Therefore, it is better to have it checked out.

Conclusion

Many perceive that carbon monoxide poisoning from an AC is a regular occurrence; however, this is just a myth associated with HVAC systems rather than the air conditioning units.

Carbon monoxide is produced by burning fuels, most commonly by heating furnaces rather than the air conditioning units that run entirely on electricity.

However, a faulty air conditioning system can lead to potential carbon monoxide emissions. That is why it is better to have your air conditioning unit maintained and repaired by professionals.

Josh M

My name is Josh and I am obsessed with the HVAC industry. I created this website to help HVAC techs of all levels get the best out of their heating & cooling systems. I have spent thousands of hours studying air conditioners, heaters and home air products so you can learn & buy with confidence. Learn more about the team here.

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