How to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Leaks in Your Home

Cold temperatures lead homeowners to secure their homes and turn up the thermostat, increasing the risk of carbon monoxide (CO) inhalation. Close to 50,000 people in the U.S. visit the emergency room annually due to accidental CO poisoning, and more than 400 people die.

This odorless, tasteless, colorless gas is a byproduct of imperfect combustion, which means it’s produced every time a material burns. If some appliances in your home use natural gas, oil, propane, kerosene, wood, gasoline or charcoal, you’re at risk of CO poisoning. Learn what happens when you breathe carbon monoxide gases and how to minimize your risk of poisoning this winter.

The Danger of Carbon Monoxide

Often referred to as the “silent killer,” carbon monoxide is lethal because it prevents the body from consuming oxygen correctly. CO molecules uproot 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, leading to loss of consciousness and suffocation. Without immediate care, brain damage or death could occur.

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

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

Since these symptoms mimic the flu, many people don’t find out they have carbon monoxide poisoning until mild symptoms progress to organ damage. Look out for symptoms that lessen when you leave the house, indicating the source might be someplace inside.

Carbon Monoxide Safety Tips

While CO exposure is intimidating, it’s also entirely preventable. Here are the best ways to protect your family from carbon monoxide gas.

Operate Combustion Appliances Properly

  • Never let your car engine run while parked in a covered or partially enclosed building, like a garage.
  • Don't use a generator, lawn mower or other gasoline-powered tool in a smaller space such as a basement or garage, irrespective of how well-ventilated it may be. Also, keep these devices at least 20 feet away from open windows, doors or intake vents.
  • Avoid using a charcoal grill or small camping stove within a home, tent or camper.
  • Keep all vents and flues free of debris that could lead to a blockage and trigger backdrafting of carbon monoxide gases.

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

If you ever use combustion appliances in or around your home, you should add carbon monoxide detectors to warn you of CO leaks. These detectors can be hardwired, battery-operated or plugged into an outlet according to the style. Here’s how to make the most of your carbon monoxide detectors:

  • Install your detectors properly: As you think about the best locations, remember that your home does best with CO alarms on all floors, near every sleeping area and near the garage. Keep each unit away from combustion appliances as well as sources of heat and humidity. The higher on the wall or ceiling you can put in your detectors, the better.
  • Check your detectors consistently: The majority of manufacturers suggest monthly testing to make sure your CO alarms are working properly. You can press and hold the Test button for 5 to 20 seconds, wait for the alarm to begin and let go of the button. You ought to hear two short beeps, observe a flash or both. If the detector does not perform as anticipated, swap out the batteries or replace the unit outright.
  • Replace the batteries: If these detectors are battery-powered models, change the batteries every six months. If you favor hardwired devices using a backup battery, change out the battery once a year or when the alarm is chirping, whichever comes first. Then, install new carbon monoxide alarms every 10 years or as often as the manufacturer recommends.

Plan for Annual Furnace Maintenance

Many appliances, such as furnaces, water heaters, fireplaces and clothes dryers, can emit carbon monoxide if the appliance is installed incorrectly or not working 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 includes the following:

  • Inspect the heating appliance for carbon monoxide leaks.
  • Spot any troubling concerns that may lead to unsafe operation.
  • Review additional places where you would most benefit from putting in 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

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

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