Winter Weather: Your Heating Unit Could Be Deadly

Many Texomans are cranking up the heat in their home, but flipping on your unit could also be turning on a silent killer.

"Carbon monoxide is probably the one I would be worried about because it's an odorless gas," Stephen Ross with Trinity Air Conditioning said, "We don't really know until it's too late."

It's a good idea to get your unit check by a professional to make sure everything is working properly.  Ross said they know what to look for an they are familiar with all of the components.  He said they will notice any issues you have and fix it for you.

"We'll check your filter to make sure it's in good shape.  Check the heat exchanger.  We'll check for cracks in the heat exchanger.  We'll run a test on the carbon monoxide in the home," Ross said.

Fire Chief John Reese with the Wichita Falls Fire Department said normally they get calls this time of year about peoples carbon monoxide detectors going off.  He said this year won't be any different.

"We will make call where people got sick," Reese said, "Some of them will go to the hospital because of it."

Unfortunately, people won't realize they have carbon monoxide coming out of their system until it's too late.

One of the easiest ways to prevent yourself from getting carbon monoxide poisoning is by getting a CO detector.  They have ones that are just battery operated, plug in, or both to make sure you are covered no matter what.  They are also really easy to install and don't cost much.

If you already have a detector and you hear the alarm go off,  Chief Reese said the first thing you should do is shut off your system.

He said, "Open windows, open doors, get the ventilation going and that will clear out, clear the levels out to an acceptable level."

Some of the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning is nausea, headache, and trouble seeing.  If you experience any of the symptoms, call 911.  First responders will get you outside in fresh air and sometimes, they will give you oxygen.  However, in some situations they will take you to the hospital for treatment, especially if you have been exposed for a long period of time.

Chief Reese said people will use alternative sources to heat up their home.  Sometimes they will use stove tops, fire pits, or set up a fire in their sink.  However, this is not advised.

"You're creating a huge amount of poisonous gases in your house, Chief Reese said, "It's just, besides the obvious fire danger, it's a huge health risk."

Also the ventilation system in your house isn't designed to filter it.  Unfortunately, some people feel that don't have any other option because they either don't have to money to get their system repaired, or their utilities have been shut off.  Chief Reese said you should look for other solutions, such as staying at a friend's house. 

, Newschannel 6