Can A Portable Air Conditioner Produce Carbon Monoxide?

As the heating season quickly dawns upon us, more and more ingenious ways of keeping your home warm and cosy are cropping up. HVAC seems to be the go-to choice for most homeowners, but their high maintenance costs make them less attractive by the day.

That’s why you are very likely to find a portable air conditioner even in homes with central heating. These units are highly mobile, light enough to move around, cheaper to buy and maintain, and incredibly energy efficient.

However, we’ve been getting questions from concerned buyers about their portable units. Recently, one of you asked us if it’s possible for an air conditioner to produce carbon monoxide. Valid question, and that’s what our segment is all about today.

Can A Portable Air Conditioner Produce Carbon Monoxide?

Well, I could just answer your question now and get it done with, but that’s not what we do here. We don’t just give out Q and As; we educate, teach, and impart our knowledge on to you. So to gain a better understanding of whether there’s a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning with portable air conditioners, you need to learn how these units work.

How Portable Air Conditioners Work

Now, most people think that portable AC works by blowing cold air into the room directly from the unit. But that’s really not the case. Portable ACs work by pulling in hot air from the surrounding environment, extracting the heat from the air and then blowing it back into the room. It’s as simple as that.

The cycle repeats until the room reaches the preset temperature on the thermostat. But just how does the portable air conditioner get the heat out of the air? Well, this will largely depend on the type of unit you have. Some make use of a refrigerant or compressed gas to absorb heat as the air moves through the unit with the help of a fan to get the cool air back into the room.

So Why Do Portable Air Conditioners Need To Vent?

This is the main reason why people think that portable air conditioners could pose a carbon monoxide poisoning threat. But you’ll be surprised to learn why these units actually need to vent. Primarily, portable ACs store up the hot air extracted from the room at the back of the unit.

So while they blow cold air back into the room, where do you think the warm air goes? The only reason why you need to vent is to allow the portable unit to expel the hot air outside and nothing more. Needless to say that without the ventilation, both the hot and cold air will end up in the same place. Not an effective way to cool a room now, is it?

Portable Air Conditioners And Carbon Monoxide

Now that you know how portable ACs work, it’s easy to answer our initial question. In truth, air conditioning in itself cannot produce carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide can only be created from fuel burning devices and machines such as cars, generators, gas stoves and furnaces.

So if your portable AC is not burning anything, there’s literally zero chance of emitting carbon monoxide. Still, there are plenty of other ways that the deadly gas can make its way indoors. That’s why we’ve compiled this here safety segment to keep you in the know and maybe even save your life one day.

Carbon Monoxide: Why It’s Toxic And How To Prevent It

Carbon monoxide is a gas made up of one carbon atom merged to one oxygen atom. In large quantities, the gas is incredibly toxic and even lethal to both humans and animals as well. Once inhaled, this silent but deadly gas binds to haemoglobin and prevents any oxygen exchange from occurring resulting in death.

What’s more, the fact that it’s odourless, colourless, tasteless and virtually impossible to detect with normal senses makes it even more dangerous.

Globally, thousands of people die every year from carbon monoxide poisoning. A large percentage of that is suicide via carbon monoxide poisoning. The gas is often produced by stoves, ovens, water heaters, fireplaces, generators, charcoal grills, furnaces, and internal combustion engines.

Signs of CO poisoning include light headedness, nausea, lack of coordination, dizziness or vertigo, fainting, confusions, shortness of breath, hallucinations, memory loss, seizures, and death.

How To Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

  • Install carbon monoxide detectors in the hallway near the sleeping area on each floor. If the alarm sounds, evacuate all your family members and call the authorities.
  • Open the garage door if you have any cars running in the garage. This will allow the CO to escape outside and not collect in the garage.
  • Use fuel burning indoor appliances as recommended. Make sure you have adequate ventilation.
  • Inspect all your vent pipes regularly to ensure they are not clogged. You can schedule annual or bi-annual maintenance of the central heating and venting systems.


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