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The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) is publishing a caution this week over the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning in homes, noting that inadequate maintenance and improper work by contractors may put residents in harm’s way.
The alert is being made in the weeks leading up to Texas’ colder weather seasons, as many residents begin closing windows and doors to drafts, and preparing their heaters for winter.
Homeowners and renters should determine whether their natural gas or propane heating system is venting carbon monoxide and burned gases to the outside where they can safely dissipate, the TDLR says.
Residents should also find out whether their heating system has developed leaks that could allow carbon monoxide to spread through living space and potentially put a family in danger of deadly exposure.
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, tasteless and odorless gas that can be deadly in high concentrations.
Residents should have a licensed air conditioning and heating contractor evaluate the system each fall to ensure problems haven’t developed during the preceding year, according to the state agency.
If a home isn’t already equipped with combination smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, residents should install them before the first cold weather front approaches. Detectors should be placed outside all sleeping areas in a residence heated with natural gas or propane. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning may include a dull headache, weakness, and dizziness. Higher concentrations will induce nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, confusion, blurred vision, loss of consciousness, and death.
“Checking whether your contractor is licensed, and the technician servicing your equipment is registered with TDLR, is an important step in protecting yourself from shoddy and dangerous work,” said William Weatherly, TDLR air conditioning and refrigeration program chief. “Licensed contractors and registered technicians have undergone a criminal background check and have had the required training. Licensed contractors have passed a comprehensive exam and complete yearly continuing education classes.”
The first step in hiring an air conditioning and heating contractor should be checking the TDLR website at (www.tdlr.texas.gov) to make sure that they are licensed by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation.
Once is is confirmed that the contractor is licensed through TDLR, there are several things they should be inspecting in your heating system, including the following:
Air Handler & Furnace (Natural Gas, Propane) – Check gas connection for leaks. Improperly operating gas connections are a fire hazard and a health concern.
Check gas pressure and proper burner combustion. Improper gas pressure or a dirty burner will cause equipment to operate less efficiently.
Check the heat exchanger for cracks and a proper flue connection. A cracked heat exchanger or improper flue connection can leak deadly carbon monoxide into the living spaces.
All Systems – Check incoming power and tighten connections as necessary.
Check thermostat and system controls for proper operation and sequence.
Check air handling unit for proper air flow.
Heat Pump & Electric Heat Systems – Check heat pump heating cycle and reversing valve operation.
Check “emergency heat” operation, which is energized if heat pump fails or is in defrost cycle.
Check electric heat strips for proper operation when system is energized.
General – Listen for abnormal noise and search for source of unusual odors.
Clean and inspect blower assembly.
Older units: lubricate motor and replace fan belt if applicable.
Replace filters and educate the customer on efficient operation.