Household CO2: What Causes High Carbon Dioxide Levels?

How to tell if your household co2 is high, and how to reduce it for health and vitality.

Are you worried about high household co2 and the possible risks it can cause? We have all heard the stories about co2 and the damage it can cause, but for most of us, the knowledge stops there. We wanted to take a chance to help you understand what causes high household co2, and how you can prevent it. You’re probably wondering “How do I know if the level of co2 is high in my home?” We’re going to break down everything you need to know about carbon dioxide and how to control the levels in your home. 

But first, we need to…”clear the air” about the difference between carbon dioxide vs carbon monoxide. 

What is the difference between carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide and what are the dangers of each?


Let’s start with carbon monoxide since that isn’t what we will be discussing in depth today. Carbon monoxide is the poisonous gas also known as the “silent killer”, because it is a toxic gas that has no smell or taste. It is flammable and has the molecular structure known as co2, made up of one carbon atom that is triply bonded to an oxygen atom. It can be produced chemically and organically. We will go into more details about carbon monoxide in a later blog.

Now for carbon dioxide, the reason you’re here today. Carbon dioxide also known as co2 is also odorless and colorless, however unlike carbon monoxide it can produce a faint acid like taste. It is non-flammable at room temperature, and mostly non-poisonous. The liner molecular structure of carbon dioxide aka “dry ice” consists of a carbon atom that is doubly bonded to 2 oxygen atoms. 


How can you tell if there is a high level of co2 in your home?


We all have carbon dioxide in our homes, but the goal is to keep the levels low. With climate change and environmental issues on the rise you want to be extra conscious of your in-home environment so you can stay healthy and comfortable.

If the carbon dioxide levels are high in your home you will most likely notice certain symptoms in your health as well physical signs in your home. Here are some ways you can detect whether or not the co2 levels in your home need to be lowered or not. 

Health Symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Mild to severe exhaustion
  • Headaches
  • Nausea


Home Symptoms:

  • Brownish or yellow stains around appliances
  • A pilot that frequently goes out
  • Sour or stale smelling air
  • Burner flame appearing mostly yellow instead of blue (not necessarily a problem if you have natural gas)
  • Fireplace symptoms- No upward draft, smoke coming back into the house.


Other ways to detect household co2?

If you’re having any of the above symptoms, you may want to follow up with a more accurate measuring system. The most accurate and certain way to detect the level of co2 in your home is by using a NDIR detector (non-dispersive infrared or electrochemical technology). You can pick one up for relatively inexpensive to keep an eye on your home’s air quality, or have one of our HVAC specialists run a complete diagnostic on our next visit.


Why would your household co2 levels be high?

Co2 is produced whenever a material burns. Fuel burning appliances in the home create more household co2. Homes with the garage attached can also create high levels of co2 in your home. Carbon dioxide is also created every time we breathe! So if you have ever felt dizzy or tired in a crowded room, it is a sign that the carbon dioxide may be high. 


What common household items produce carbon dioxide?

Here are some of the most common causes of high levels of co2.

  • HVAC (should always have a monitor and be regularly maintained)
  • Fireplace (needs to be properly ventilated to avoid toxic gas build up)
  • Laundry (up to 179 million metric tons a year, finds ways to lower laundry co2 here)
  • Stovetops (Use your range-top fan/ventilation and or open windows)
  • Old electrical systems (inefficient & can also be a fire hazard)
  • Crowded rooms and spaces (lack of fresh oxygen)
  • Smoking (up to 200 times more co2 produced than breathing)
  • Spaces without windows or doors


How can I reduce high household co2? 

As you see above, there are a lot of ways that carbon dioxide is produced in our homes by items and actions we use every day. Fortunately, there are simple ways you can reduce the hazardous effects and easily lower the co2 levels in your home.


  1. Make sure you have proper ventilation. Open windows often and run fans to circulate air. Since we are always producing co2 in our homes, get in the habit of keeping fresh air flowing through your home every day. Do this especially when cooking and doing laundry!
  2. Incorporate live plants in your home. Live plants use photosynthesis to turn carbon dioxide into fresh oxygen. Try Dracaena plants. These amazing plants can remove formaldehyde, benzene, trichloroethylene and co2. (There is much debate about having houseplants in the bedroom because they can emit co2 at night… read this for the details on why we chose to recommend plants in the bedroom)
  3. Keep your HVAC well maintained with regular service and new air filters. Depending on how many people live in your home, your activities and if you have pets or animals you may need to change your filter every 1-3 months.
  4. Air purifiers. While some can slightly reduce co2 and toxic gas levels, the best solution is to bring in fresh air from the outdoors.


How can I reduce carbon dioxide in my bedroom?

Do you ever wake up feeling more tired than when you went to bed? While sleeping we create more co2 than during the day. Most people sleep with windows and doors closed, and no light in the room. Most people also have sleep troubles. By opening your window at night, and keeping a fan going you can greatly reduce the co2 levels in your bedroom. 


As we mentioned earlier, having plants in your room/house is a great way to clean the air and reduce co2 levels. The reason there is so much debate on this topic, is because at night (without sunshine), the plants actually produce co2 like us. The difference is that they produce substantially lower levels than us. The overall benefits produced by the right plants in the bedroom, far outweigh the potential downfalls. 


During the day keep blinds and windows open allowing fresh air and sunshine in. Keep clutter down so there is more room for oxygen and flow. Keep unnecessary appliances out of the room. 


Final thoughts on household co2…

If you found yourself here reading this article, chances are that you were experiencing some of the symptoms of high levels of carbon dioxide in your home. While the gas itself is invisible, the problems it can cause in your life are major. Each day we need to be well rested so we can focus at work, for our families, and to experience our overall best life. High levels of carbon dioxide can make each day feel like a struggle. The good news is that the solutions are simple, and now that you know them, you’re on your way to better energy, health and comfort.


If you would like help in determining and improving the air quality of your most precious asset, give us a call today at 215-234-4351 or email us at [email protected] to connect with one of our experts.