AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) – As cooler weather starts to settle over the High Plains, the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation recommended hiring a licensed contractor to check heating systems for carbon monoxide leaks and other issues.

According to TDLR, carbon monoxide gas is colorless, tasteless, odorless, and can be deadly in high concentrations. Every fall, the department recommended that people have their air conditioning and heating systems evaluated in order to make sure issues haven’t developed during the previous year. While natural gas or propane heating systems should vent burned gases and carbon monoxide to the outside where they can safely dissipate, they could develop leaks allowing those fumes and gases to migrate into indoor living spaces and cause hazards and possibly deadly carbon monoxide poisoning.

While looking for air conditioning and heating contractors to hire for system inspections, TDLR advised that people make sure those contractors are licensed using the department website.

“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 & 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 department noted that licensed contractors should be inspecting certain aspects of heating systems in those yearly checks, including:

  • 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 and/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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Further, inspectors should be checking for abnormal noises, unusual odors, cleaning and inspecting blower assembly, lubricating the motor and replacing fan belts of older units, along with replacing filters, and helping educate on efficient system operations.

Alongside regular inspections, TDLR advised that people ensure that homes are equipped with smoke and carbon monoxide detectors before cold weather occurs, outside all sleeping areas.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, according to the TDLR, can include:

  • A dull headache
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Confusion
  • Blurred vision
  • Loss of consciousness

According to the CDC, carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms are often described as “flu-like,” and those who are sleeping or drunk can die from the condition before showing symptoms. Each year, over 400 Americans die from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning not linked to fires, and it is annually connected to over 20,000 emergency room visits and more than 4,000 hospitalizations.

Further information on carbon monoxide poisoning prevention and safe heating practices can be found on the CDC website.