Gas heaters and wood stoves have always been famously dangerous to use in closed houses, requiring that most people shut them off before they go to bed. However, pellet stoves are meant to be run 24/7, even when you are asleep, which means that most people consider the danger from them minimal. When you read the packaging for the stove you will still have warning signs though, so can a pellet stove cause carbon monoxide poisoning?
While pellet stoves emit truly little carbon monoxide when running properly, they can emit a large amount when something does go wrong, causing a larger danger to most people in a room. It is recommended that you have at least one or two CO2 detectors within 10 feet of the pellet stove. If the exhaust vents, the fan, or the pellets experience the problem any pellet stove can experience a sharp spike in CO2 production.
Understanding how and why a pellet stove can produce CO2, what the dangers of the odorless, tasteless gas are, and how to prevent it from becoming a problem is important. Many people around the world will actively try to ignore CO2 as a danger, causing them to be in an extreme amount of danger only realizing the problem when it is too late.
How does a pellet stove produce carbon monoxide?
Pellet stoves like all stoves for heating a home uses wood to create a fire, this is a chemical reaction and releases a lot of other gases in the exchange. The biggest one usually produced is carbon monoxide, which among the other gases is not such a deadly gas. Pellet stoves burn hot enough not to cause most of the other gases; however, a small amount of CO2 will still be produced.
All fires cause CO2, even gases that burn on their own have some amount of CO2 being released and this is what makes winter such a dangerous period of the year. It is not uncommon for people to forget entirely that fire causes CO2, and while keeping your house warm is important it is not advisable to cut off access to all the fresh air outside your home. The only sure-fire way to not let some fresh air into a house is when you use a full HVAC system that is constantly supplying fresh, warm air.
CO2 is usually the reason most people become drowsy over the winter period as well, as it becomes colder and colder people keep their homes closed. This is great for temperature, but CO2 builds up naturally wherever we are, as humans also breathe this out. When a pellet stove is burning, it may not release a lot of CO2 into the area, but it does use a lot of oxygen, causing the concentration to fall.
What are the dangers of carbon monoxide?
Few people understand the dangers of carbon monoxide, and when you consider the human body does well at functioning even outside of ideal conditions, it can be understandable why many believe it is no danger. However, CO2 is most likely the only gas that will be abundant in your home at all times, and understanding what the dangers are is important.
Many people believe that all CO2 can do is cause a bit of drowsiness when breathed in for too long, however, the opposite is true and by the point it causes you to be sleepy if might be too late. If anything, when you suspect that CO2 is a problem in your home you need to actively work on getting rid of it. CO2 is a silent and deadly killer that will leave even the largest, strongest adults gasping for air.
- Brain damage: CO2 guts off and replaces oxygen when breathed in and while a few minutes of CO2 being too much can do nothing more than make you yawn; anything more will cause brain damage. The simple matter of that the brain requires oxygen to function and when this supply is cut off then the brain can be severely damaged, in a permanent manner.
- Heart problems: As the oxygen in your blood decreases due to too much CO2, your heart will start to work much harder to keep everything working. This stresses the heart out, and prolonged overwork will damage the heart in such a way that it can no longer function properly.
- Organ dysfunction: Apart from the brain and heart, other organs in your body will react negatively to not receiving enough oxygen as well. Some parts may swell up, while others stop being as effective, eventually leading to full-blown organ failure as it causes a domino effect.
- Memory problems: This is the first and clearest sign that someone is undergoing CO2 poisoning, as the CO2 starts to take effect they may simply forget things like notes left by themselves, to names of people around them. Memory loss is a big problem that people face once they start getting CO2 poisoning if you see a friend suddenly forgetting things or you are having trouble remembering things you did at home, get a CO2 meter.
- Personality changes: This one takes slightly longer to take effect and is a sign of brain damage occurring rather than just a temporary change. Because the brain is affected most people get rather violent when they have prolonged CO2 poisoning happening and will have many personality changes that only those close to them will experience.
What can be done to prevent carbon monoxide from accumulating in a home?
You should always have a supply of fresh air coming into a home, and have air moving around it to prevent CO2 from building up. Even in the winter, you should let fresh air into the home constantly, even if it is just a trickle of air coming from a window. The only other thing you can do is install CO2 meters around your home to let you know as soon as the levels become too high.
A common practice to do is have floor vents in your home, this allows most CO2 to escape, and fresh air to easily come into your home. Further, as most countries that rely heavily on pellet stoves have a lot of snow, you must remember to pump in even more fresh air. Snow easily seals vents and other sources of fresh air, which can make it almost impossible to breathe if a normal family is living in a home.
A big problem with modern housing is that they can be perfectly sealed, which makes them fantastic for keeping the heat in and dust out but makes them a nightmare when gases are accumulating. This is why modern building standards now have vents and other sources of fresh air as a part of their building guides. Ensuring that even if every door and window is closed, there is constant access to fresh, clean, oxygen-rich air.
What do you need in your house to ensure safety?
There are three things you need in your home to prevent a pellet stove from creating too much CO2, vents to the outside, vents to exhaust out of, and moving air. This combination means that the pellet stove can comfortably heat any new air that comes in, while not using up the trapped oxygen that you need to breathe in.
A lot of homes are built to automatically do this, with permanent pellet stoves built specifically to draw air in from outside and use that to heat up. This is a riskier way of doing things but does allow you to easily and comfortably enjoy a hot home without having to constantly measure and worry about the CO2 levels.
While a slow-burning, or ineffective pellet stove will release some CO2 into your home, a properly burning one will never release CO2 into your home. The only danger that you may have to face is the pellets getting wet and soggy, causing them to smoke before they catch alight.
Pellet stoves will not release a steady stream of CO2 into your home; however, they will constantly use the oxygen that you have in the home. This causes the ratio of CO2 to oxygen to change which can make it harder for you to breathe. Simply letting in fresh air through vents or windows will allow you to comfortably sleep without having to stress about waking up or not.
Whatever you do, don’t open a window or door on the opposite side of the pellet stove, that only ever causes cold air on one half of the room!