Carbon Monoxide Safety In Your Home

carbon monoxide safety
Prioritizing carbon monoxide safety in your home should be a high priority. Unfortunately, carbon monoxide is odorless, colorless, and silent. It's also a byproduct of many of the home heating systems that we use to stay warm in cold weather. No one wants to freeze all winter long, so how do we protect ourselves without sacrificing comfort? What common-sense steps can we take? We can tell you all you need to know about carbon monoxide safety it in your home.

What Is Carbon Monoxide?

Carbon monoxide, or CO, is a silent, odorless, and colorless gas. When inhaled, it displaces oxygen in the blood to deprive the heart, brain, lungs, and other vital organs of oxygen. It can smother you in minutes, rendering you unconscious until you eventually suffocate. The average time it takes to succumb fully is 2 hours, but it could still have devastating consequences within minutes. This is especially true of small children and pets. It is also crucial that you protect pregnant mothers. CO poses significant risks to the unborn.

Where Is Carbon Monoxide Found?

CO gets produced every time you burn fossil fuels. It is a basic byproduct of stoves, lanterns, fireplaces, grills, gas ranges, and oil and gas-fired furnaces. Many of these appliances within our homes are dangerous if they malfunction. Prevention and early detection is critical.

What Are The Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?

The most common symptoms are dizziness and headaches. Other likely indicators of poisoning are weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, and confusion. The effects of CO are described as “flu-like” because they bear all the same hallmarks. So, it’s important to recognize that every time you feel nauseous, it might just be a common cold. However, if you are getting ill more often or struggle to shake the effects, it could be something more serious.

Look For The Signs

There are tell-tale signs that can indicate a CO leak. Check for lazy yellow or orange flames on your gas range. Look for soot stains or dark marks around gas appliances and pilot lights that frequently go out.

Who Is Most At Risk?

Everyone is at risk of contamination, but some groups are more vulnerable. The elderly, the very young, those with heart and lung conditions like emphysema and chronic heart disease are all more susceptible to CO poisoning. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 400 Americans die each year not linked to house fires as the consequence of unintentional CO poisoning. More than 20,000 visit the emergency room, with 4,00 hospitalized. As you can see, carbon monoxide safety is something to take seriously.

Carbon Monoxide Safety In Your Home

Fortunately, there are many ways to keep you and your family safe.

Schedule Annual Heating System Maintenance

When it comes to combustible energy, you can never be too cautious. Call in a qualified heating engineer to complete a yearly maintenance check and inspection on your furnace. This also applies to water heaters and other gas, oil, and coal-burning appliances within the home. An annual maintenance inspection will replace any worn parts to keep your heating in tip-top condition. The service and maintenance schedule keeps you safe and ensures maximum efficiency to save you money in energy costs. And don’t be tempted to skip a service because your system is working perfectly. It is often this false confidence that leads to trouble. Just because a furnace appears to function correctly doesn’t mean it is. Every time your furnace fires into life, it puts the internal components under strain. Over prolonged periods, things malfunction. Once a crack appears, you have the potential for a CO leak. It may be small at first, just 0-20 parts per million (PPM), but if left unchecked, the crack widens, and the CO leakage increases. This is, in part, why carbon monoxide has been dubbed the “silent killer.”

Install a Safe Alternative

The ultimate carbon monoxide safety tool is to eliminate fossil fuel burning appliances altogether. New, modern air-source and geothermal heat pumps can keep your house warm even in extremely low temperature conditions. The MRCOOL Universal can perform down to -22 degrees Fahrenheit. A geothermal heat pump can deliver stable heating performance in virtually any weather. So, if you're worried about carbon monoxide safety, a heat pump is a real alternative. It's not the only possible solution. You could also invest in an air conditioner and gas package unit. The difference between a package unit and a traditional split system is that all the major components are housed in a cabinet that is installed outside the house. Even if you have a furnace leaking carbon monoxide, the package unit is outside, so the majority of the gas is being exhausted into the atmosphere and not inside your house.

Install a Battery-Operated Back-Up CO Detector

If you must have a fossil fuel appliance in your home, a carbon monoxide detector can be a lifesaver. If you can get a detector with a digital readout, even better, because it will tell you what the CO levels are and whether they are rising or falling. You should conduct a test once a week to check battery status. Whenever you are vacuuming, always run the nozzle over the detector to remove dust and dirt. Another good tip is to replace the batteries every time you change the clock in spring and fall. Location is important. Install the sensor about 5 feet from the ground. You should also try and locate it in a central location, close enough to the source of CO and near enough to where you live, sleep, and cook. It might also be advisable to install multiple detectors in hotspots around the home. Other than where you locate your CO detector, the other vital factor is the threshold of the alarm. Some trigger at concentrations of 75 PPM, while others are more sensitive, alerting you to danger at 35 PPM or less. Health problems are more likely to occur with higher levels of carbon monoxide. It might also be a good idea to combine a CO alarm with a smoke detector to give you the best possible protection.

Check Your Chimney Regularly

It’s a good idea to inspect for blockages at least once every year to ensure there is no CO build-up that might leak into the home. Chimneys block easily and are prime culprits in the battle to avoid carbon monoxide. If you have a solid fuel burner, this is especially important because soot accumulates, coating the chimney walls and narrowing the access for the smoke to escape. An obvious tell-tale sign your chimney is blocked is seeing more smoke in the room. When the smoke has a restricted exit point, like a sooted-up chimney, the smoke billows back down towards the opening in your room. Professionals call it the “draw.”  Having a healthy draw is crucial to removing the deadly toxins from inside your home.

Never Burn Charcoal Indoors

It seems a little obvious, but lighting a BBQ undercover is more common than you think. People shelter from the rain, and in doing so, they seek covered shelter. This restricts the airflow, and the smoke becomes trapped. Never ever do this! If bad weather knocks out your home heat, do not run an improperly ventilated fossil fuel heater in your home. This will kill you faster than low temperatures. If possible, leave your property and seek out a nearby warming center.

Do You have other Carbon Monoxide Safety Question?

Let us know your questions about carbon monoxide safety in the comments below. You can also call us at 270-575-9595 or reach out via email here.
Leave your comment
Your email address will not be published
Copyright © 1988-2024 Ingrams Water & Air Equipment, LLC. All Rights Reserved. Ingrams is a trademark of Ingrams Water & Air.