How to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Leaks in Your Home

Icy temperatures lead homeowners to batten down their homes and crank up the thermostat, expanding the risk of carbon monoxide (CO) exposure. About 50,000 people in the U.S. end up in the emergency room annually 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 released each time a material burns. If the appliances in your home run on natural gas, oil, propane, kerosene, wood, gasoline or charcoal, you’re vulnerable to CO poisoning. Learn what happens when you breathe in carbon monoxide gases and how to reduce your risk of poisoning this winter.

The Danger of Carbon Monoxide

Often referred to as the “silent killer,” carbon monoxide is lethal because it keeps the body from processing oxygen appropriately. CO molecules displace oxygen within the blood, depriving the heart, brain, lungs and other vital organs of oxygen. Dense concentrations of CO can overwhelm your system in minutes, leading to loss of consciousness and suffocation. Without urgent care, brain damage or death could occur.

Carbon monoxide poisoning can also occur progressively if the concentration is comparatively low. The most prevalent signs of CO exposure include:

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

Because these symptoms mimic the flu, numerous people never find out they have carbon monoxide poisoning until mild symptoms evolve to organ damage. Watch out for symptoms that lessen when you leave the house, illustrating the source could be somewhere inside.

Carbon Monoxide Safety Tips

While CO poisoning is alarming, it’s also entirely preventable. Here are the top ways to keep your family safe from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Run Combustion Appliances Safely

  • Don't leave your car running while parked in an enclosed or partially enclosed structure, such as a garage.
  • Do not use a generator, lawn mower or other gasoline-powered system in an enclosed space such as a basement or garage, regardless of how well-ventilated it may be. Also, keep these devices about 20 feet away from open windows, doors or intake vents.
  • Avoid using a charcoal grill or transportable camping stove while inside a home, tent or camper.
  • Keep all vents and flues clear of debris that may lead to a blockage and trigger backdrafting of carbon monoxide fumes.

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 add carbon monoxide detectors to notify you of CO leaks. These alarms can be hardwired, battery-operated or plugged into an outlet depending on the style. Here’s how to reap all the benefits of your carbon monoxide detectors:

  • Install your detectors correctly: As you think about possible locations, keep in mind that your home does best with CO alarms on each floor, near every sleeping area and close to 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 install your detectors, the better.
  • Check your detectors consistently: The majority of manufacturers recommend monthly testing to make sure your CO alarms are operating correctly. 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, observe a flash or both. If the detector doesn’t work as it's supposed to, swap out the batteries or replace the unit outright.
  • Swap out the batteries: If you have battery-powered models, exchange the batteries after six months. If you favor hardwired devices that use a backup battery, replace the battery once a year or when the alarm begins to chirp, 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, could emit carbon monoxide if the equipment is installed improperly or not running as it should. An annual maintenance visit is the only way to know for sure if an appliance is malfunctioning before a leak develops.

A precision tune-up from Stallion Heating Plumbing Air Conditioning consists of the following:

  • Examine the heating appliance for carbon monoxide leaks.
  • Spot any problems that may lead to unsafe operation.
  • Assess additional areas where you could benefit from putting in a CO detector.
  • Tune up your system so you know your equipment is running at peak safety and productivity.

Contact Stallion Heating Plumbing Air Conditioning

If your gas furnace, boiler or water heater has developed a CO leak, or you want to prevent leaks before they happen, Stallion Heating Plumbing 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 Stallion Heating Plumbing Air Conditioning office for more info about carbon monoxide safety or to schedule heating services.

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