Can Carbon Monoxide Come from an AC? CO from Air Conditioning

You may have heard that carbon monoxide (CO) can come from an AC. And with so much banter on the internet, you just never know what to believe. So let’s do our research and find out once and for all. Can carbon monoxide come from an AC?

Air conditioners do not omit carbon monoxide, as they do not burn fuel to run. Air conditioners transfer heat from indoors to the outside of the home and are powered by electricity. There is no burning of any fuel substance, therefore, ACs cannot produce carbon monoxide.

Heating and Cooling Units
Heating & Cooling Units

Can Carbon Monoxide Come From an AC?

There seems to be a lot of confusion about what causes carbon monoxide and what does not. Although it’s good to be concerned, as carbon monoxide exposure is no joke. Our indoor air quality affects our health, so we should become educated to know where the bad things in the air are coming from.

Although air conditioners are part of an HVAC unit, they are not a source of concern when it comes to the emission of carbon monoxide. And perhaps that is where the confusion comes in, as heaters that were improperly installed or are not working properly can indeed emit carbon monoxide.

Do Portable Air Conditioners Give Off Carbon Monoxide?

Portable air conditioners do not give off carbon monoxide, as just like built-in air conditioners that run on electricity, portable air conditioners also run on electricity. Carbon monoxide is produced by the burning of certain fuels such as propane, wood, charcoal, and so on.

Providing an air conditioner is run using electricity, there should be absolutely no concern about an AC producing carbon monoxide.

What Is Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?

Carbon monoxide gas is created by burning propane, gasoline, charcoal, wood, or other fuels that have no flavor, color, or smell. Because carbon monoxide has no smell, color, or taste, it’s referred to as the “silent killer.” Appliances and motors that aren’t properly vented, especially in a room that’s securely sealed or enclosed, can build up lethal amounts of carbon monoxide.

When carbon monoxide levels in your bloodstream rise, carbon monoxide poisoning happens. Your body replaces the oxygen in your red blood cells with carbon monoxide when there is too much carbon monoxide in the air. Serious tissue damage or even death may result from this.

How Do You Prevent A Carbon Monoxide Leak?

To prevent the risk of a carbon monoxide leak, one needs to have a way of detecting carbon monoxide in the air. Also important is to make sure that all of your appliances and your heaters are in good working order as well as have them checked for possible CO leaks.

The following is recommended to ensure you are staying on top of any possible carbon monoxide leaks:

  • Make sure that all gas appliances have proper ventilation. Schedule an appointment with a gas representative and have them double-check all of your gas pipes for leaks.
  • It’s important to maintain yearly cleaning and service to your chimney to check for any blockage that can cause CO to accumulate within your home.
  • Should you smell a gas leak, contact your gas company immediately.
  • Never use portable chemical heaters indoors.
  • It is never recommended to use a gas oven or range as a means of heating your home, as this can create an accumulation of carbon monoxide inside of the home.
  • Never use a camping stove indoors, as this can cause a build-up of CO.

The above tips are only a few of the many to take into consideration. In a nutshell, do not use gas appliances or appliances run on any other fuel type indoors that are not meant to be used indoors. Doing this is very dangerous.

We hear stories of people who are so cold inside their homes that they run unconventional appliances or generators indoors as a means of keeping warm, and then we hear about them on the news because they died of carbon monoxide poisoning.

As a side note, if you find a leak in a gas pipe, don’t try to fix it with tape or gum. Call a professional to do it right, because your life depends on it.

How Can Carbon Monoxide Enter Your Home?

According to the CDC, every year close to 400 individuals die from carbon monoxide poisoning. CO has no taste or color, and we cannot smell it. Therefore, we could be exposed to very high levels of CO and would never know.

The signs of being ill from CO exposure can mimic flu-like symptoms, so there would be no obvious signs that our illness is CO-related.

A part of keeping carbon monoxide out of our homes is by understanding how carbon monoxide enters our homes in the first place.

Below are some common sources of carbon monoxide:

  • Tobacco smoke
  • Gas stoves and ovens
  • Water heaters
  • Grills
  • Clothes dryers
  • Generators
  • Furnaces or boilers
  • Fireplaces, both gas and wood burning
  • Lawn equipment
  • Motor vehicles
  • Power tools
  • Wood stoves

Homes with attached garages have higher chances of carbon monoxide accumulation due to a running vehicle inside of the garage with the garage door closed.

Always make sure your garage door is open before turning on your car. This will allow the harmful gases to go outside rather than into your home.

Avoid Using Certain Appliances Indoors

Never, ever use appliances indoors that were not made for indoor use. Many of these appliances emit carbon monoxide that will quickly accumulate inside your home making you sick

The following are appliances that should never be used indoors:

  • Generators
  • Camping stoves and lanterns
  • Charcoal grills
  • Anything else that burns fuel that was not made for indoor use

Carbon Monoxide Detectors

It’s recommended that every home should have a carbon monoxide detector and that all homes using appliances that burn fuel have a home inspection to ensure there are no hidden leaks anywhere.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends that every home should have at least one CO alarm that passes the Underwriter Laboratories (UL) latest standards.

Having a carbon monoxide detector in your home will help you monitor any detected dangerous levels of carbon monoxide. Poor air quality can be combatted, but first, we need to know what’s in our air.

What are the Symptoms of CO Poisoning?

For unsuspecting people who are sleeping or perhaps a bit intoxicated, CO can sneak up and cause real harm. Death or severe brain damage can occur with prolonged exposure to carbon monoxide.

If you’ve been sipping a couple of glasses of wine, for example, you may confuse the side effects of CO exposure with simply being a bit “buzzed” from the wine. Carbon monoxide can not only contribute to poor air quality but also make people very sick.

Below are some common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning:

  • Confusion
  • Memory loss
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Dull headache
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weakness

Carbon monoxide poisoning can be particularly dangerous for people who are sleeping or intoxicated. People may have irreversible brain damage or even die before anyone realizes there’s a problem.


The first part of carbon monoxide prevention is being aware of the ways in which carbon monoxide enters our homes. By being careful to not run appliances indoors that were not made for indoors, we can help ensure we keep unwanted CO out of our homes.

Never burn something in an unvented fireplace, and always open a garage door before turning on a vehicle that is parked in a garage. Every home should have a working carbon monoxide detector so that if you have an unexpected CO leak in your home, you will be alerted before being poisoned.

And if using a space heater, make sure that it’s electric and is not the kind that burns fuel which in turn will emit CO.


Trina Greenfield, Author
SmackDown Media LLC

About the Author:
Trina Greenfield, the owner of SmackDown Media LLC, is passionate about providing information to those interested in the air quality in and around their homes. Trina writes content about things she’s passionate about, such as safe, in-home air, educational platforms for children and adults, as well as all things family-related.