How to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Leaks in Your Home

Cold temperatures drive homeowners to seal up their homes and raise the thermostat, increasing the risk of carbon monoxide (CO) exposure. Around 50,000 people in the U.S. visit the emergency room annually as a result of inadvertent CO poisoning, and more than 400 people die.

This odorless, tasteless, colorless gas is a byproduct of imperfect combustion, meaning that it’s released any time a material is combusted or used for fuel. If some appliances in your home run on natural gas, oil, propane, kerosene, wood, gasoline or charcoal, you’re susceptible to CO poisoning. Find out what happens when you breathe in carbon monoxide gases and how to lower your risk of exposure this winter.

The Danger of Carbon Monoxide

Commonly known as the “silent killer,” carbon monoxide is lethal because it prevents the body from processing oxygen properly. 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, causing loss of consciousness and suffocation. Without immediate care, brain damage or death could occur.

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

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

As these symptoms mimic the flu, many people never learn they have carbon monoxide poisoning until moderate symptoms advance to organ damage. Be wary of symptoms that lessen when you leave the house, indicating the source might be somewhere inside.

Carbon Monoxide Safety Tips

While CO poisoning is frightening, it’s also entirely avoidable. Here are the ideal ways to keep your family safe from carbon monoxide gas.

Use Combustion Appliances Safely

    • Don’t run your car engine while parked in an enclosed or partially enclosed structure, like a garage.
    • Never leave a generator, lawn mower or other gasoline-powered system in an indoor space such as a basement or garage, regardless 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 free of debris that can create a blockage and cause backdrafting of carbon monoxide fumes.

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

If you ever run combustion appliances in or around your home, you should put in carbon monoxide detectors to alert you of CO emissions. These alarms can be hardwired, battery-operated or plugged into an outlet according to the style. Here’s how to take full advantage of your carbon monoxide detectors:

    • Install your detectors securely: As you think about potential locations, remember that your home needs CO alarms on each floor, near each sleeping area and adjacent to the garage. Keep each unit away from combustion appliances as well as sources of heat and humidity. The higher on your wall or ceiling you can put in your detectors, the better.
    • Test your detectors on a regular basis: The majority of manufacturers suggest monthly testing to ensure your CO alarms are working correctly. You can press and hold the Test button for 5 to 20 seconds, wait for the alarm to begin and release the button. You ought to hear two quick beeps, watch a flash or both. If the detector doesn’t function as expected, replace the batteries or replace the unit entirely.
    • Swap out the batteries: If your alarms are battery-powered models, exchange the batteries after six months. If you have hardwired devices that use a backup battery, replace 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 frequently the manufacturer recommends.

Plan for Annual Furnace Maintenance

Several appliances, including furnaces, water heaters, fireplaces and clothes dryers, could emit carbon monoxide if the appliance is installed poorly or not running as it should. A yearly maintenance visit is the only way to ensure if an appliance is faulty before a leak develops.

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

    • Examine the heating appliance for carbon monoxide leaks.
    • Spot any problems that could cause unsafe operation.
    • Review additional places where you might benefit from putting in a CO detector.
    • Tune up your system so you know your heating and cooling is running at peak safety and effectiveness.

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 help provide a safe, comfortable 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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