How to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Leaks in Your Home

Cold temperatures drive homeowners to seal up their homes and crank up the thermostat, increasing the risk of carbon monoxide (CO) inhalation. About 50,000 people in the U.S. end up in the emergency room annually due to inadvertent CO poisoning, and more than 400 people die.

This odorless, tasteless, colorless gas is a result of imperfect combustion, which means it’s created any time a material burns. If the appliances in your home use natural gas, oil, propane, kerosene, wood, gasoline or charcoal, you’re vulnerable to CO poisoning. Learn what happens when you inhale carbon monoxide gases and how to lower your risk of exposure this winter.

The Risks of Carbon Monoxide

Commonly referred to as the “silent killer,” carbon monoxide is lethal because it prevents the body from processing oxygen correctly. CO molecules dislodge oxygen that’s part of the blood, depriving the heart, brain, lungs and other vital organs of oxygen. Large volumes of CO can overpower your system in minutes, triggering loss of consciousness and suffocation. Without prompt care, brain damage or death can occur.

Carbon monoxide poisoning can also occur slowly if the concentration is comparatively modest. The most prevalent signs of CO exposure include:

    • Headaches
    • Dizziness
    • Weakness
    • Fatigue
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting
    • Chest pain
    • Confusion

As these symptoms imitate the flu, numerous people won’t discover they have carbon monoxide poisoning until moderate symptoms advance to organ damage. Watch out for symptoms that lessen when you aren’t home, illustrating the source might be someplace inside.

Carbon Monoxide Safety Tips

While CO inhalation is alarming, it’s also entirely preventable. Here are the best ways to help your family avoid carbon monoxide gas.

Operate Combustion Appliances Safely

    • Don’t run your car engine while parked in a covered or partially enclosed structure, like a garage.
    • Do not leave a generator, lawn mower or other gasoline-powered system in a confined space like a basement or garage, regardless of how well-ventilated it might be. Also, keep these devices at least 20 feet away from open windows, doors or intake vents.
    • Don’t use a charcoal grill or portable camping stove within a home, tent or camper.
    • Keep all vents and flues clear of debris that could lead to a blockage and encourage backdrafting of carbon monoxide emissions.

Install, Test and Replace the Batteries in Your Carbon Monoxide Detectors

If you ever use combustion appliances in or close to your home, you should install carbon monoxide detectors to notify you of CO emissions. These devices can be hardwired, battery-operated or plugged into an outlet based on the style. Here’s how to reap all the benefits of your carbon monoxide detectors:

    • Install your detectors correctly: As you review possible locations, keep in mind that your home needs CO alarms on each floor, near every sleeping area and near the garage. Keep each unit out of reach from combustion appliances and sources of heat and humidity. The higher on a wall or ceiling you can place your detectors, the better.
    • Check your detectors consistently: Most manufacturers suggest monthly testing to make sure your CO alarms are operating correctly. Just press and hold the Test button for 5 to 20 seconds, wait for the alarm to start and let go of the button. You will hear two quick beeps, see a flash or both. If the detector doesn’t perform as it’s supposed to, replace the batteries or replace the unit entirely.
    • Replace the batteries: If you have battery-powered models, exchange the batteries every six months. If you prefer hardwired devices with a backup battery, change out the battery once a year or when the alarm starts chirping, whichever comes first. Then, install new carbon monoxide alarms every 10 years or as frequently the manufacturer suggests.

Arrange Annual Furnace Maintenance

Many appliances, like furnaces, water heaters, fireplaces and clothes dryers, could leak carbon monoxide if the system is installed poorly or not running as it should. An annual maintenance visit is the only way to ensure if an appliance is faulty before a leak appears.

A precision tune-up from Mid-State Air Conditioning, Heating & Plumbing consists of the following:

    • Examine the heating appliance for carbon monoxide leaks.
    • Look for any troubling concerns that may cause unsafe operation.
    • Evaluate additional spaces where you would most benefit from installing a CO detector.
    • Tune up your system so you know your equipment is functioning at peak safety and effectiveness.

Contact Mid-State Air Conditioning, Heating & Plumbing

If your gas furnace, boiler or water heater has sprung a CO leak, or you want to stop leaks before they happen, Mid-State Air Conditioning, Heating & Plumbing can help. Our HVAC and plumbing maintenance and repair services promote a safe, comfortable home all year-round. Call your local Mid-State Air Conditioning, Heating & Plumbing office for more information about carbon monoxide safety or to ask for heating services.

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