How to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Leaks in Your Home

Winter temperatures lead homeowners to secure their homes and raise the thermostat, elevating the risk of carbon monoxide (CO) inhalation. Close to 50,000 people in the U.S. visit the emergency room each year because of accidental CO poisoning, and more than 400 people die.

This odorless, tasteless, colorless gas is a result of imperfect combustion, which means it’s produced each time a material is burned. If some appliances in your home run on natural gas, oil, propane, kerosene, wood, gasoline or charcoal, you’re at risk of CO inhalation. Learn what happens when you breathe in carbon monoxide fumes and how to lower your risk of poisoning this winter.

The Dangers of Carbon Monoxide

Often known as the “silent killer,” carbon monoxide is lethal because it keeps the body from processing oxygen appropriately. CO molecules displace oxygen in the blood, starving the heart, brain, lungs and other vital organs of oxygen. Dense concentrations of CO can overtake your system in minutes, causing loss of consciousness and suffocation. Without prompt care, brain damage or death can occur.

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

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

Because these symptoms imitate the flu, many 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, suggesting the source may be originating from inside.

Carbon Monoxide Safety Tips

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

Use Combustion Appliances Safely

    • Don’t leave your car running while parked in an enclosed or partially enclosed structure, like a garage.
    • Do not run a generator, lawn mower or other gasoline-powered tool in a confined space such as a basement or garage, regardless of how well-ventilated it might be. Also, keep these devices at least 20 feet away from open windows, doors or intake vents.
    • Don’t use a charcoal grill or portable camping stove while inside a home, tent or camper.
    • Keep all vents and flues free of debris that may lead to a blockage and cause 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 add carbon monoxide detectors to notify you of CO gas. These devices 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 consider possible locations, keep in mind that a home needs CO alarms on each floor, near every 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 a wall or ceiling you can install your detectors, the better.
    • Check your detectors on a regular basis: The bulk of manufacturers recommend monthly testing to confirm your CO alarms are working correctly. 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 doesn’t function as expected, replace the batteries or replace the unit outright.
    • Swap out the batteries: If your alarms are battery-powered models, change the batteries every six months. If you favor hardwired devices using 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 as frequently the manufacturer recommends.

Plan for Annual Furnace Maintenance

Many appliances, including furnaces, water heaters, fireplaces and clothes dryers, may release carbon monoxide if the system is installed improperly or not performing as it should. A yearly maintenance visit is the only way to know for sure if an appliance is defective before a leak develops.

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

    • Check the heating appliance for carbon monoxide leaks.
    • Search for any malfunctions that might lead to unsafe operation.
    • Review 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 productivity.

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, warm home all year-round. Get in touch with your local Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing office for more information about carbon monoxide safety or to schedule heating services.

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