What Must You Know About Combustion Appliances And Indoor Air Pollution?

Those which burn fuels for cooking, warmth, or decorative purposes are called Combustion Appliances.
These combustion appliances do you have at your home?
  • Gas heater, boiler, or water heater
  • Oil-fired furnace, boiler, or water heater
  • Woodstove or fireplace
  • Portable propane, natural gas, or kerosene heaters
  • Other fuel-burning appliances (e.g., gas stove)
If so, the combustion process produces heat and flue gases. Usually, these combustion products, including visible smoke and various invisible gases, are vented outdoors through a chimney or vent pipe. Unfortunately, in some cases, they can instead escape into your home and produce combustion pollutants, where they risk causing an array of health and other issues.

Possible Health Effects Of Combustion Pollutants

  • Headaches,
  • dizziness,
  • sleepiness,
  • Watery eye, and
  • breathing difficulties.

This booklet was written:

  • to assist how to use, maintain, and install combustion appliances properly;
  • to explain what do combustion appliances produce the pollutants;
  • to illustrate how these pollutants can harm your wellness; and,
  • to tell you how you can diminish your exposure to these pollutants.

What Must You Know About Combustion Appliances And Indoor Air Pollution?

YES. Studies revealed that the air quality could be worse & more polluted than the outdoor air in big cities. Because nowadays people spend most of their time at home, indoor air quality can affect their well-being & health. Air pollution is especially more harmful & susceptible to infants, young children, and the elderly group. People suffering from chronic respiratory diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma, cardiovascular illness, or immune system diseases are also more vulnerable to pollutants.

What Are Combustion Pollutants?

Combustion pollutants are gases and small particles that come from burning fuels such as natural or LP gas, kerosene, fuel oil, wood, or coal. The amounts of pollutants produced depend on the type of appliance you installed at your home and how well the combustion appliances are maintained, vented, and installed. Toxic and harmful substances are found in combustion gases. Some of them are:
  • carbon monoxide (colorless, odorless, and highly toxic);
  • polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons;
  • aldehydes;
  • unburnt hydrocarbons;
  • sulfur oxides;
  • nitrogen oxides;
  • particulate matter (eg, soot);
  • Carbon dioxide and water vapor – both are present in more significant amounts. Although they are relatively harmless, they can make the environment uncomfortable or contribute to humidity problems in the home.

Where Do Combustion Pollutants Come From?

Combustion pollutants come from the exhaust from the car, tobacco smoke, lawn mower internal combustion engines, and the fuel of motor vehicles. Some hobby activities such as wood burning, soldering & welding, and vented or unvented combustion appliances can also produce combustion pollutants.

What Is A Vented Appliance?

The term “vented” refers to a fireplace or space heater with a hood, shield, chimney, or other components that direct the heat outwards and simultaneously divert any hazardous fumes. The vented appliance is intended to be a heat source for significant areas such as an entire home or business. These appliances can release high levels of pollutants directly into your home if a vent is not installed correctly or blocked or leaked.

What Is An Unvented Appliance?

Unvented appliances are intended to heat compact areas only, single rooms or offices, etc. So they produce combustion pollutants inside.

Can I Use Charcoal Hibachis Or Charcoal Grills Indoors?

No, don’t ever use these appliances inside homes, truck-caps, or tents. Burning and smoldering charcoal release carbon monoxide that can harm or kill you if you use it indoors for cooking or heating.

Carbon Monoxide:

According to Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), nearly 200 people die each year because of using combustion appliances in the home that release carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide exposure lowers the blood’s capacity to carry oxygen. The substance has no odor, and some of its symptoms are similar to those of common ailments. This is especially dangerous since the lethal effects of carbon monoxide will not be noticed until it is too late to take measures against them.
Breathing low levels of carbon monoxide cause fatigue and increases chest pain if the person suffers from chronic heart disease. Breathing higher chemical levels can cause symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, vomiting, nausea, and weakness in healthy people. If inhaled this chemical at very high levels, then it can cause loss of consciousness and death.

Nitrogen Dioxide:

Breathing nitrogen oxide at a higher level might irritate the respiratory tract and cause shortness of breath. Children and persons with respiratory problems like asthma may be more vulnerable to nitrogen dioxide than healthy people.


Particles suspended in the air might irritate your eyes, nose, throat, and lungs. They can exacerbate respiratory symptoms, particularly in those who have chronic lung illness or heart disease. The health effects of breathing particles are influenced by various factors, including particle size and chemical composition.

Sulfur Dioxide:

Breathing Sulfur dioxide at low levels – causes eye, nose, and respiratory tract irritation.
If inhaled at high levels, it causes the lung airways to narrow. This causes chest tightness, wheezing, or breathing problems. People with asthma are more vulnerable to the sulfur dioxide effects.

Other Pollutants:

Combustion may release other pollutants such as unburned hydrocarbons and aldehydes.

What Should I Do If I Suspect That Combustion Pollutants Are Affecting My Health?

If you suspect that combustion pollutants are affecting your health, then you can do these things-
  • Get fresh & cool air immediately.
  • Open doors & windows of your home for more ventilation.
  • If you are using any combustion appliances, just turn them off and leave the house.
Exposure to carbon monoxide, you may lose consciousness and die if you do nothing. Contact a doctor immediately for proper treatment. Prompt medical care is essential. To rule out whether carbon monoxide affects your health, it is necessary to do the required blood tests that your doctor suggests.
You should also contact a qualified appliance service company to have your appliances inspected and adjusted if needed.

How Can I Reduce My Exposure To Combustion Pollutants?

You can reduce your exposure to combustion pollutants by proper selection, installation, inspection, and maintenance of your appliances. Using your appliances correctly and providing good ventilation in your home can also reduce your exposure to these pollutants.
Additionally, several different residential carbon monoxide detectors will provide maximum protection & warn consumers of harmful carbon monoxide levels in the home.

Appliance Selection

  • Try to choose vented appliances if possible.
  • Only buy tested & certified combustion appliances to meet current safety standards.
  • Unvented space heaters are not allowed to be used in some dwellings, communities, or certain rooms in the house.
  • Consider buying gas appliances of electronic ignitions rather than pilot lights.
  • Buy the right size of appliances according to the area you want to heat. Using the wrong size heater is less efficient & may produce more pollutants in your home.
  • Talk to your dealer to know the exact appliance type and size that you will need.
  • New wood stoves are EPA-certified to limit the amount of pollutants released into the outdoor air.

Proper Installation

You should have your appliances professionally installed. Qualified installers know how to install the appliance and follow all the installation guidelines and applicable building codes. If the appliance is not correctly installed, it can release dangerous pollutants in your home and create a fire hazard.


  • A good supply of fresh outdoor air is needed to reduce indoor air pollution.
  • Keep doors open to minimize the level of pollutants, mainly carbon monoxide.
  • Use a hood fan to reduce the level of pollutants you breathe if they exhaust to the outside.
  • Ensure that your vented appliance has no holes & cracks & also has the vent connected and that nothing is blocking it.
  • Do not vent gas clothes dryers or water heaters into the house for heating. This is unsafe.
  • Use a damper on a wood stove.

Correct Use

  • Read and follow the instructions to know how the appliances work. Following the instructions and warning labels is essential to know because it could save your life.
  • Always use the correct fuel for the appliance.
  • Use water-clear ASTM 1-K kerosene only for kerosene heaters.
  • Instead of using softwoods (cedar, fir, pine), Use seasoned hardwoods (elm, maple, oak) in woodburning stoves and fireplaces.
  • Never use a range, dryer, oven to heat your home because misusing them can produce high amounts of nitrogen dioxide, too.
  • Don’t utilize an unvented combustion heater in a room because they may release carbon monoxide that can reach dangerous levels.
  • Never ignore a safety device when it unplugs an appliance.
  • Never neglect the fuel’s smell. This indicates the appliance is not operating correctly or is leaking fuel.

Inspection And Maintenance

  • Regularly inspect your combustion appliances to reduce your exposure to pollutants. Those appliances that are not working correctly can produce hazardous and even fatal amounts of pollutants, mainly carbon monoxide.
  • Have chimneys and vents inspected when changing or installing vented heating appliances? They may require modification. Make sure you clean your chimney and vents significantly when changing them.

What Are The Inspection And Maintenance Procedures?

Following the recommendations of the manufacturer is crucial. The same combustion appliance may have different maintenance & inspections need, depending upon your location.
In general, in furnaces that burn fuel, it’s always a good idea to check out the flame on the burner regularly.
Before each heating season, Always inspect and clean your flues for leakage and blockage by creosote or debris.

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