How to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Leaks in Your Home

Winter temperatures drive homeowners to secure their homes and raise the thermostat, expanding the risk of carbon monoxide (CO) exposure. Around 50,000 people in the U.S. go to the emergency room annually due to inadvertent CO poisoning, and more than 400 people die.

This odorless, tasteless, colorless gas is a side effect of imperfect combustion, which means it’s created every time a material is combusted or used for fuel. If the appliances in your home rely on natural gas, oil, propane, kerosene, wood, gasoline or charcoal, you’re vulnerable to CO exposure. Learn what happens when you inhale carbon monoxide gases and how to lower your risk of exposure this winter.

The Danger of Carbon Monoxide

Often known as the “silent killer,” carbon monoxide is lethal because it stops the body from processing oxygen appropriately. CO molecules displace oxygen that’s part of the blood, starving 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 prompt care, brain damage or death could occur.

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

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

Since these symptoms imitate the flu, many people won’t learn they have carbon monoxide poisoning until minor symptoms progress to organ damage. Be wary of symptoms that lessen when you leave home, illustrating the source may be originating from inside.

Carbon Monoxide Safety Tips

While CO inhalation is frightening, it’s also entirely avoidable. Here are the best ways to protect your family from carbon monoxide gas.

Operate Combustion Appliances Safely

    • Don’t leave your car running while parked in a confined or partially enclosed building, such as a garage.
    • Never leave a generator, lawn mower or other gasoline-powered device in a smaller space like a basement or garage, regardless of how well-ventilated it is. Also, keep these devices about 20 feet away from open windows, doors or intake vents.
    • Never use a charcoal grill or small camping stove in a home, tent or camper.
    • Keep all vents and flues clear of debris that can produce a blockage and encourage backdrafting of carbon monoxide gases.

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

If you ever run combustion appliances in or around your home, you should put in carbon monoxide detectors to alert you of CO gas. These devices can be hardwired, battery-operated or plugged into an outlet according to the style. Here’s how to reap all the benefits of your carbon monoxide detectors:

    • Install your detectors properly: As you consider possible locations, keep in mind that your home needs CO alarms on every floor, near every sleeping area and close to the garage. Keep each unit out of reach from combustion appliances and sources of heat and humidity. The higher on a 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 operating correctly. You can 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 brief beeps, watch a flash or both. If the detector does not function as it’s supposed to, replace the batteries or replace the unit entirely.
    • Swap out the batteries: If you have battery-powered models, change the batteries every six months. If you have hardwired devices with a backup battery, swap out 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 frequently the manufacturer suggests.

Arrange Annual Furnace Maintenance

Many appliances, including furnaces, water heaters, fireplaces and clothes dryers, could release carbon monoxide if the system is installed incorrectly or not working as it should. An annual maintenance visit is the only way to know for sure if an appliance is faulty before a leak appears.

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

    • Inspect the heating appliance for carbon monoxide leaks.
    • Search for any malfunctions that could cause unsafe operation.
    • Review additional areas where you could benefit from setting up a CO detector.
    • Tune up your system so you know your equipment is functioning at peak safety and efficiency.

Contact Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing

If your gas furnace, boiler or water heater has formed 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, comfortable home all year-round. Call 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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