(photos by Tim Jaynes, Staff)
These business owners are making sure customers have warm living conditions, but most importantly -- a carbon monoxide-free home.
"I highly recommend -- if you have a gas furnace -- to have a qualified serviceman look at your furnace before you light the burner," said Marty Presley, owner of Presley Sales and Service.
Gas furnaces need gas pressure and limit switches checked. For those who have an electrical heating system, have wires checked to make sure there aren't any that are burnt and have other heating elements checked, Presley advised.
Rick Leonard, owner of Rick Leonard Heating and Air Conditioning Service, said his heating and furnace service has been somewhat busy lately, but he predicts a lot more people will call when it gets cooler.
All heating units should have the filter changed and the motor oiled, Leonard said. Some units also need to have the belt replaced, he added.
Make sure no yellow flames are in the burner, Presley advised. If it's not burning properly, an insufficient burner will give off carbon monoxide.
Carbon monoxide, or CO, is an odorless, colorless gas that can cause sudden illness and death. Each year, more than 500 Americans die from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning, according to the Center for Disease Control.
"Carbon monoxide will sneak up on you before you know it's there," Presley warned. "It's a slow killer because it lulls you and puts you to sleep."
Found in combustion fumes, such as those produced by cars and trucks, small gasoline engines, stoves, lanterns, burning charcoal and wood and gas ranges and heating systems, carbon monoxide can build up in enclosed and semi-enclosed spaces, poisoning humans and animals.
Although carbon monoxide can't be seen or smelled, one possible sign of detecting poisoning is flu-like symptoms, Presley said.
"I remember a couple who didn't have any problems themselves, but every time their grandson would come over, he would get sick. It turned out they had a cracked heat exchanger," Presley recalled.
A cracked heat exchanger provides the opportunity for carbon monoxide to go through the crack and blow through the whole house, Presley explained.
Common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain and confusion. High levels of carbon monoxide ingestion can cause loss of consciousness and death.
Because carbon monoxide isn't a high density gas, it mixes, rather than rising or falling within a room, Presley said. He recommended putting carbon monoxide detectors in parts of a home that are used the most, such as a living room or bedroom.
"Try to keep it at eye level -- like your thermostat on the wall, Presley suggested. "Don't put it in the furnace room. A lot of people want it where the furnace is, but it works best where people are."
Leonard recommended that any house with an attached garage should have a plug-in-the-wall carbon monoxide detector. Any house with gas fired appliances such as a furnace, water heater, stove, clothes dryer or gas log also needs a plug-in-the-wall carbon monoxide detector, he advised.
Carbon monoxide detectors can be found at nearly any furnace or heating service provider and department stores. Detectors can plug into an electrical socket or they can be battery operated.
Usually one detector is enough, Presley added. However, he said, large houses may need more than one and that can be determined by the number of square footage in the house.
"Ideally, a detector with a digital readout is the best choice," Presley recommended. "With digital detectors, you can see how much carbon monoxide is actually in the house."