Icy temperatures drive homeowners to seal up their homes and turn up the thermostat, elevating the risk of carbon monoxide (CO) inhalation. Close to 50,000 people in the U.S. end up in the emergency room each year as a result of inadvertent CO poisoning, and more than 400 people die.
This odorless, tasteless, colorless gas is a side effect of incomplete combustion, which means it’s produced every time a material burns. If any appliances in your home run on natural gas, oil, propane, kerosene, wood, gasoline or charcoal, you’re vulnerable to CO inhalation. Find out what happens when you inhale carbon monoxide fumes and how to lower your risk of poisoning this winter.
The Risks of Carbon Monoxide
Commonly known as the “silent killer,” carbon monoxide is lethal because it stops the body from taking in oxygen appropriately. CO molecules dislodge oxygen within 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 could occur.
Carbon monoxide poisoning can also happen progressively if the concentration is fairly minimal. The most prevalent signs of CO inhalation include:
- Chest pain
Since these symptoms resemble the flu, a lot of people won't find out they have carbon monoxide poisoning until mild symptoms advance to organ damage. Watch out for symptoms that subside when you leave home, indicating the source may be somewhere inside.
Carbon Monoxide Safety Tips
While CO inhalation is frightening, it’s also entirely preventable. Here are the best ways to help your family avoid carbon monoxide gas.
Run Combustion Appliances Safely
- Don't run your car engine while parked in an enclosed or partially enclosed building, like a garage.
- Do not run a generator, lawn mower or other gasoline-powered tool in an indoor space like a basement or garage, irrespective of how well-ventilated it is. Also, keep these devices about 20 feet away from open windows, doors or intake vents.
- Avoid using a charcoal grill or transportable camping stove within a home, tent or camper.
- Keep all vents and flues clear of debris that may produce a blockage and trigger backdrafting of carbon monoxide emissions.
Install, Test and Replace the Batteries in Your Carbon Monoxide Detectors
If you ever run combustion appliances in or around your home, you should install carbon monoxide detectors to notify you of CO leaks. These devices can be hardwired, battery-operated or plugged into an outlet based on the style. Here’s how to take full advantage of your carbon monoxide detectors:
- Install your detectors correctly: As you consider the best locations, remember that your home does best with CO alarms on all floors, near each sleeping area and close to the garage. Keep each unit a safe distance from combustion appliances and sources of heat and humidity. The higher on a wall or ceiling you can put in your detectors, the better.
- Check your detectors on a regular basis: The majority of manufacturers encourage monthly testing to confirm your CO alarms are functioning correctly. You can press and hold the Test button for 5 to 20 seconds, wait for the alarm to start and let go of the button. You should hear two short beeps, watch a flash or both. If the detector won't work as it's supposed to, swap out the batteries or replace the unit outright.
- Replace the batteries: If your alarms are battery-powered models, change 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 whenever the manufacturer suggests.
Arrange Annual Furnace Maintenance
Several appliances, like furnaces, water heaters, fireplaces and clothes dryers, may release carbon monoxide if the system is installed improperly or not running as it should. A yearly maintenance visit is the only way to know for sure if an appliance is defective before a leak develops.
A precision tune-up from Rob's Albertan Service Experts consists of the following:
- Check the heating appliance for carbon monoxide leaks.
- Spot any troubling concerns that might lead to unsafe operation.
- Assess additional places where you could benefit from installing a CO detector.
- Tune up your system so you know your equipment is functioning at peak safety and productivity.
Contact Rob's Albertan Service Experts
If your gas furnace, boiler or water heater has formed a CO leak, or you want to thwart leaks before they happen, Rob's Albertan Service Experts can help. Our HVAC and plumbing maintenance and repair services help provide a safe, comfortable home all year-round. Get in touch with your local Rob's Albertan Service Experts office for more info about carbon monoxide safety or to ask for heating services.