Natural Gas Appliances Cause Indoor Air Pollutants & Health Hazards

Natural Gas Appliances Cause Indoor Air Pollutants & Health Hazards

The Dangers of Burning Natural Gas in Buildings

Outdoor air quality is widely reported, but do you know what your indoor air quality is like?

Most people are well aware of poor outdoor air quality, especially in a big city. It’s reported in your phone’s weather app, TV meteorologists and other outlets. It can be visible — like smog or smoke stack clouds — or perhaps a certain smell. Regardless, the dangers are  easily noticeable. At the root of all of these? Fossil fuel combustion — burning oil, gas or coal.

However, poor air quality is not exclusive to outdoor spaces. According to the EPA, indoor air pollutants can actually be more dangerous than outdoor air pollutants, especially considering how often we are exposed – the average American spends 90% of their time indoors. 

If a building is using oil or gas appliances, like furnaces, water heaters or stoves, harmful pollutants and toxins can constantly circulate, creating invisible, toxic, deadly dangers for residents. 

BlocPower is committed to fighting this problem, providing greener, healthier and cleaner solutions to heating and cooling your home with modern, electric HVAC technology. 

3 Major Indoor Air Pollutants From Combustion Appliances

The EPA has identified three major indoor air pollutants from combustion appliances, which can be anything from gas stoves to fireplaces to space heaters:

  1. Carbon monoxide
  2. Nitrogen dioxide
  3. Particulate matter  

Carbon Monoxide is a Silent Killer, Especially for Children and the Elderly

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless indoor air pollutant that comes from appliances burning natural gas, which is made up of 70-90% methane plus ethane, butane and propane.  appliances. At high concentrations, carbon monoxide can cause dizziness, headaches, nausea and death. At low to moderate concentrations, it can cause reduced brain function and fatigue. Vulnerable populations, like children and elderly people, are especially at risk to the effects of carbon monoxide exposure in homes. Each year, 50,000 Americans are hospitalized due to carbon monoxide poisoning. 

Nitrogen Dioxide Linked to Acute Respiratory Illness Including Asthma in Children

Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is another indoor air pollutant that comes from gas appliances. Concentrations of nitrogen dioxide can be more than half of what it is outside, making an enclosed indoor space unhealthy for residents. Short-term exposure to nitrogen dioxide acts as an irritant, affecting the eyes, nose, throat and respiratory tract. However, long-term exposure can cause acute or chronic bronchitis. Evidence suggests that NO2 is likely to be a major cause of asthma in children. 

Particulate Matter Associated with Premature Death from Cardiovascular Effects

Particulate matter (PM) is another pollutant from combustion appliances that negatively affects indoor air quality. PMs come from oil and gas combustion and also affects the most vulnerable populations – children and elderly people – the most. However, everyone is at risk of inhaling PMs, which causes major irritations of the respiratory tract. According to the EPA, “health effects may include cardiovascular effects such as cardiac arrhythmias and heart attacks, and respiratory effects such as asthma attacks and bronchitis.”

Did you know: natural gas (also known as fossil gas or fracked gas) is naturally odorless. A chemical compound called mercaptan is added to give it the rotten egg smell and serve as a warning system to prevent deadly leaks. It was added to gas after nearly 300 students died in a tragic explosion at a Texas school

Disproportionate Effect on Disenfranchised Communities 

Indoor air pollution is a prime example of environmental injustice, disproportionately affecting lower income, Black and Brown and Indigenous communities. Unlike outdoor pollutants, the EPA does not have full jurisdiction to address indoor air pollutants, leaving the toxins in our homes and buildings unregulated. Therefore, homeowners are left to trust outdated building codes and regulations. Renters are left to rely on building owners to make the necessary updates to protect their tenants. 

Factors Contributing to Indoor Environmental Disparities 

There are many factors contributing to the environmental injustice of poor indoor air quality, including some communities having smaller homes, greater occupancy and closer proximity to outdoor pollution sources. 

High costs associated with the replacement of outdated appliances and home heating systems are another major driver. To address this, BlocPower offers building owners no-money-down payment options through its Energy Service Agreement

We are strong believers that everyone deserves access to a healthy living environment. Wondering how we help you make clean air an afterthought in your home? 

2-in-1 Solution to Indoor Air Pollutants 

Combatting poor indoor air quality can be easy with BlocPower. Not only do our electric heat pump systems replace fossil fuel-based combustion, but they also purify indoor air with easy-to-clean filters, providing a 2-in-1 solution to addressing indoor air pollutants. 

Instead of relying on inefficient and unhealthy oil and gas combustion, electric heat pumps provide both heating and cooling by using ambient air from the outdoors, replacing appliances that emit carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter and other harmful pollutants. An outdoor unit gathers heat energy from the air, while an indoor unit acts as either a condenser or evaporator to maintain comfortable temperatures at 100% efficiency. These systems work similarly to refrigerators, but with advanced components that allow them to function efficiently, even in cold climates (learn more about heat pumps in our Go-To Guide here.)

All air source heat pumps have easily replaceable air filters. Modern systems can be outfitted with plasma filters, ionic filters and high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters to improve poor air quality at the point of delivery. Besides indoor air pollutants from fossil fuels, there are many other dangerous pollutants that could be lurking in the air. For example, excess moisture can cause a build up of mold, causing moderate to major irritations. Electric heat pumps act as expert dehumidifiers when cooling a hot, humid indoor space. 

Your building’s air quality matters to us

BlocPower specializes in air source heat pump system design and installation. Since 2012, our team has completed energy projects in over 1,200 buildings, purifying air, lowering energy costs and fighting environmental injustice. 

If you’re ready to save 30–60% on energy costs—and ensure dependable, healthy and clean indoor air for your home or building—BlocPower is ready to help. Get started by answering a few quick questions about your building.