How to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Leaks in Your Home

Icy temperatures lead homeowners to seal up their homes and crank up the thermostat, increasing the risk of carbon monoxide (CO) inhalation. Around 50,000 people in the U.S. go to the emergency room every year as a result of inadvertent CO poisoning, and more than 400 people die.

This odorless, tasteless, colorless gas is a result of imperfect combustion, which means it’s produced every time a material burns. If some appliances in your home rely on natural gas, oil, propane, kerosene, wood, gasoline or charcoal, you’re susceptible to CO inhalation. Learn what happens when you inhale carbon monoxide fumes and how to reduce your risk of poisoning this winter.

The Risks of Carbon Monoxide

Commonly known as the “silent killer,” carbon monoxide is lethal because it keeps the body from processing oxygen properly. CO molecules displace oxygen in the blood, depriving the heart, brain, lungs and other vital organs of oxygen. Large amounts of CO can overpower your system in minutes, leading to loss of consciousness and suffocation. Without immediate care, brain damage or death may occur.

Carbon monoxide poisoning can also happen slowly if the concentration is fairly minimal. The most common signs of CO poisoning include:

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

As these symptoms mimic the flu, numerous people never discover they have carbon monoxide poisoning until moderate symptoms progress to organ damage. Look out for symptoms that subside when you leave the house, illustrating the source might be someplace inside.

Carbon Monoxide Safety Tips

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

Use Combustion Appliances Properly

    • Don’t leave your car running while parked in a covered or partially enclosed building, such as a garage.
    • Never use 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 around 20 feet away from open windows, doors or intake vents.
    • Never use a charcoal grill or portable camping stove inside a home, tent or camper.
    • Keep all vents and flues free of debris that may create a blockage and encourage backdrafting of carbon monoxide fumes.

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

If you ever operate combustion appliances in or close to your home, you should install carbon monoxide detectors to warn you of CO gas. These detectors 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 properly: As you consider possible locations, keep in mind that your home does best with CO alarms on all floors, near each sleeping area and near the garage. Keep each unit out of reach from combustion appliances and sources of heat and humidity. The higher on your wall or ceiling you can install your detectors, the better.
    • Review your detectors regularly: The bulk of manufacturers suggest monthly testing to confirm your CO alarms are working properly. Simply 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 function as it’s supposed to, change the batteries or replace the unit altogether.
    • Replace the batteries: If these detectors are battery-powered models, exchange the batteries every six months. If you prefer hardwired devices with a backup battery, replace 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.

Schedule Annual Furnace Maintenance

Multiple appliances, including furnaces, water heaters, fireplaces and clothes dryers, can leak carbon monoxide if the equipment is installed poorly or not performing 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.
    • Spot any malfunctions that could lead to unsafe operation.
    • Assess additional places where you would most benefit from setting up a CO detector.
    • Tune up your system so you know your equipment is functioning at peak safety and efficiency.

Contact Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing

If your gas furnace, boiler or water heater has sprung a CO leak, or you want to stop leaks before they happen, Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing can help. Our HVAC and plumbing maintenance and repair services encourage a safe, warm home all year-round. Get in touch with your local Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing office for more details about carbon monoxide safety or to ask for heating services.

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