How to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Leaks in Your Home

Icy temperatures encourage homeowners to secure their homes and turn up the thermostat, increasing the risk of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. About 50,000 people in the U.S. go to the emergency room every year because of unintended CO poisoning, and more than 400 people die.

This odorless, tasteless, colorless gas is a byproduct of incomplete combustion, which means it’s created any time a material is burned. If the appliances in your home use natural gas, oil, propane, kerosene, wood, gasoline or charcoal, you’re susceptible to CO poisoning. Find out what happens when you inhale carbon monoxide gases and how to lower your risk of exposure this winter.

The Danger of Carbon Monoxide

Often referred to as the “silent killer,” carbon monoxide is lethal because it stops the body from taking in oxygen properly. CO molecules dislodge oxygen within the blood, depriving the heart, brain, lungs and other vital organs of oxygen. Large amounts of CO can overwhelm your system in minutes, triggering loss of consciousness and suffocation. Without immediate care, brain damage or death may occur.

Carbon monoxide poisoning can also occur gradually if the concentration is comparatively low. The most frequent signs of CO inhalation include:

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

As these symptoms resemble the flu, many people won’t find out they have carbon monoxide poisoning until moderate symptoms evolve to organ damage. Be wary of symptoms that subside when you leave home, indicating the source may be originating from inside.

Carbon Monoxide Safety Tips

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

Run Combustion Appliances Correctly

    • Don’t run your car engine while parked in an enclosed or partially enclosed structure, like a garage.
    • Do not run a generator, lawn mower or other gasoline-powered system in a confined space like a basement or garage, no matter how well-ventilated it might be. Also, keep these devices about 20 feet away from open windows, doors or intake vents.
    • Never use a charcoal grill or transportable camping stove in a home, tent or camper.
    • Keep all vents and flues clear of debris that may create 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 near your home, you should install carbon monoxide detectors to warn you of CO gas. These devices can be hardwired, battery-operated or plugged into an outlet depending on the style. Here’s how to take full advantage of your carbon monoxide detectors:

    • Install your detectors correctly: As you review potential locations, remember that your home needs CO alarms on every floor, near any sleeping area and adjacent to the garage. Keep each unit a safe distance from combustion appliances as well as sources of heat and humidity. The higher on your wall or ceiling you can install your detectors, the better.
    • Check your detectors regularly: The bulk of manufacturers suggest monthly testing to make sure your CO alarms are functioning correctly. Simply 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 quick beeps, see a flash or both. If the detector won’t function as it’s supposed to, replace the batteries or replace the unit outright.
    • Swap out the batteries: If your alarms are battery-powered models, change the batteries after six months. If you have hardwired devices using a backup battery, change 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 as frequently the manufacturer recommends.

Plan for Annual Furnace Maintenance

Multiple appliances, including furnaces, water heaters, fireplaces and clothes dryers, may emit carbon monoxide if the equipment is installed incorrectly or not working as it should. A once-a-year maintenance visit is the only way to ensure if an appliance is defective 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.
    • Search for any troubling concerns that might lead to unsafe operation.
    • Assess additional spaces where you could benefit from installing a CO detector.
    • Tune up your system so you know your equipment is operating at peak safety and productivity.

Contact Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing

If your gas furnace, boiler or water heater has formed a CO leak, or you want to prevent leaks before they happen, Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing can help. Our HVAC and plumbing maintenance and repair services help provide a safe, warm home all year-round. Contact your local Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing office for more information about carbon monoxide safety or to request heating services.

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