How to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Leaks in Your Home

Cold temperatures lead homeowners to seal up their homes and turn up the thermostat, expanding the risk of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Close to 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, which means it’s produced each time a material is combusted or used for fuel. If some appliances in your home rely on natural gas, oil, propane, kerosene, wood, gasoline or charcoal, you’re at risk of CO poisoning. Find out what happens when you inhale carbon monoxide fumes and how to reduce your risk of poisoning this winter.

The Danger of Carbon Monoxide

Frequently referred to as the “silent killer,” carbon monoxide is lethal because it keeps the body from taking in 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 overtake your system in minutes, triggering loss of consciousness and suffocation. Without prompt care, brain damage or death could occur.

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

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

As these symptoms imitate the flu, a lot of people won’t discover they have carbon monoxide poisoning until minor symptoms evolve to organ damage. Look out for symptoms that subside when you leave home, indicating the source could be someplace inside.

Carbon Monoxide Safety Tips

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

Run Combustion Appliances Properly

    • Never let your car engine run while parked in an enclosed or partially enclosed structure, like a garage.
    • Never use a generator, lawn mower or other gasoline-powered tool 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.
    • Avoid using a charcoal grill or portable camping stove inside a home, tent or camper.
    • Keep all vents and flues clear of debris that may produce a blockage and trigger backdrafting of carbon monoxide gases.

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

If you ever run combustion appliances in or near your home, you should install carbon monoxide detectors to alert you of CO emissions. These devices 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 properly: As you think about the best locations, don’t forget that your home needs CO alarms on all floors, near any sleeping area and near the garage. Keep each unit out of reach 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.
    • Review your detectors on a regular basis: Most manufacturers suggest monthly testing to make sure your CO alarms are functioning properly. Simply press and hold the Test button for 5 to 20 seconds, wait for the alarm to start and release the button. You ought to hear two quick beeps, see a flash or both. If the detector won’t work as anticipated, change the batteries or replace the unit altogether.
    • Change out the batteries: If you have battery-powered models, change the batteries after six months. If you have hardwired devices with a backup battery, replace the battery once a year or if the alarm starts chirping, whichever comes first. Then, install new carbon monoxide alarms every 10 years or whenever the manufacturer suggests.

Schedule Annual Furnace Maintenance

Several appliances, including furnaces, water heaters, fireplaces and clothes dryers, can leak 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 defective before a leak develops.

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

    • Inspect the heating appliance for carbon monoxide leaks.
    • Spot any problems that might 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 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 developed a CO leak, or you want to thwart 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. Get in touch with your local Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing office for more info about carbon monoxide safety or to schedule heating services.

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