How to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Leaks in Your Home

Cold temperatures encourage homeowners to secure their homes and raise the thermostat, elevating the risk of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Close to 50,000 people in the U.S. visit the emergency room every year because of accidental CO poisoning, and more than 400 people die.

This odorless, tasteless, colorless gas is a side effect of imperfect combustion, which means it’s created every time a material burns. If some appliances in your home run on natural gas, oil, propane, kerosene, wood, gasoline or charcoal, you’re vulnerable to CO exposure. Find out what happens when you inhale carbon monoxide fumes and how to minimize your risk of exposure this winter.

The Danger of Carbon Monoxide

Often known as the “silent killer,” carbon monoxide is lethal because it keeps the body from using oxygen appropriately. CO molecules dislodge oxygen that’s part of the blood, starving the heart, brain, lungs and other vital organs of oxygen. Dense concentrations of CO can overwhelm your system in minutes, causing loss of consciousness and suffocation. Without urgent care, brain damage or death can occur.

Carbon monoxide poisoning can also take place progressively if the concentration is comparatively minimal. The most prevalent signs of CO inhalation include:

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

Since these symptoms resemble the flu, numerous people don’t learn they have carbon monoxide poisoning until minor symptoms advance to organ damage. Look out for symptoms that decrease when you leave the house, indicating the source might be originating from inside.

Carbon Monoxide Safety Tips

While CO exposure is alarming, it’s also entirely avoidable. Here are the top ways to help your family avoid carbon monoxide exposure.

Operate Combustion Appliances Safely

    • Never let your car engine run while parked in a covered or partially enclosed structure, like a garage.
    • Do not leave a generator, lawn mower or other gasoline-powered device in a confined space like a basement or garage, irrespective of how well-ventilated it may be. Also, keep these devices around 20 feet away from open windows, doors or intake vents.
    • Don’t use a charcoal grill or small camping stove while inside a home, tent or camper.
    • Keep all vents and flues clear of debris that can produce a blockage and trigger 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 alert you of CO leaks. These alarms can be hardwired, battery-operated or plugged into an outlet depending on the style. Here’s how to take full advantage of your carbon monoxide detectors:

    • Install your detectors properly: As you review the best locations, remember that your home does best with CO alarms on every floor, near any sleeping area and near the garage. Keep each unit a safe distance from combustion appliances and sources of heat and humidity. The higher on the wall or ceiling you can place your detectors, the better.
    • Check your detectors on a regular basis: The bulk of manufacturers suggest monthly testing to make sure your CO alarms are working properly. Just press and hold the Test button for 5 to 20 seconds, wait for the alarm to begin and let go of the button. You should hear two short beeps, observe a flash or both. If the detector does not perform as anticipated, change the batteries or replace the unit entirely.
    • Change out the batteries: If these detectors are battery-powered models, swap out the batteries after six months. If you have hardwired devices with a backup battery, swap out the battery once a year or if the alarm is chirping, whichever comes first. Then, install new carbon monoxide alarms every 10 years or as often as the manufacturer suggests.

Arrange Annual Furnace Maintenance

Several appliances, such as furnaces, water heaters, fireplaces and clothes dryers, could release carbon monoxide if the equipment is installed improperly or not running as it should. An annual maintenance visit is the only way to ensure if an appliance is malfunctioning before a leak develops.

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

    • Inspect the heating appliance for carbon monoxide leaks.
    • Search for any malfunctions that could cause unsafe operation.
    • Review additional places where you would most benefit from putting in a CO detector.
    • Tune up your system so you know your heating and cooling is functioning at peak safety and productivity.

Contact Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing

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

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