How to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Leaks in Your Home

Cold temperatures encourage homeowners to secure their homes and turn up the thermostat, elevating the risk of carbon monoxide (CO) exposure. Around 50,000 people in the U.S. visit the emergency room annually due to inadvertent CO poisoning, and more than 400 people die.

This odorless, tasteless, colorless gas is a byproduct of imperfect combustion, meaning that it’s produced any time a material burns. If the appliances in your home rely on natural gas, oil, propane, kerosene, wood, gasoline or charcoal, you’re vulnerable to CO inhalation. Find out what happens when you breathe in carbon monoxide gases and how to minimize your risk of poisoning this winter.

The Dangers of Carbon Monoxide

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

Carbon monoxide poisoning can also take place slowly if the concentration is fairly low. The most prevalent signs of CO inhalation include:

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

Since these symptoms resemble the flu, numerous people never find out they have carbon monoxide poisoning until minor symptoms evolve to organ damage. Be wary of symptoms that subside when you leave the house, suggesting the source could be originating from inside.

Carbon Monoxide Safety Tips

While CO poisoning is intimidating, it’s also entirely avoidable. Here are the top ways to protect your family from carbon monoxide gas.

Run Combustion Appliances Safely

    • Don’t leave your car running while parked in a confined or partially enclosed building, like a garage.
    • Don’t run a generator, lawn mower or other gasoline-powered system in an enclosed 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 while inside a home, tent or camper.
    • Keep all vents and flues clear of debris that could lead to a blockage and cause backdrafting of carbon monoxide emissions.

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

If you ever use combustion appliances in or close to your home, you should add carbon monoxide detectors to alert you of CO emissions. These devices can be hardwired, battery-operated or plugged into an outlet based on the style. Here’s how to make the most of your carbon monoxide detectors:

    • Install your detectors securely: As you think about potential locations, don’t forget that a home does best with CO alarms on every floor, near every sleeping area and adjacent to the garage. Keep each unit away from combustion appliances and sources of heat and humidity. The higher on the wall or ceiling you can put in your detectors, the better.
    • Test your detectors regularly: Most manufacturers encourage monthly testing to confirm your CO alarms are functioning properly. You can press and hold the Test button for 5 to 20 seconds, wait for the alarm to sound and release the button. You should hear two quick beeps, observe a flash or both. If the detector won’t function as it’s supposed to, replace the batteries or replace the unit altogether.
    • Replace the batteries: If these detectors are battery-powered models, exchange the batteries after six months. If you have hardwired devices with a backup battery, change out the battery once a year or when the alarm starts chirping, whichever comes first. Then, install new carbon monoxide alarms every 10 years or as frequently the manufacturer suggests.

Plan for Annual Furnace Maintenance

Many appliances, including furnaces, water heaters, fireplaces and clothes dryers, may emit carbon monoxide if the system is installed poorly or not running as it should. A yearly maintenance visit is the only way to ensure if an appliance is malfunctioning 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.
    • Look for any troubling concerns that could cause unsafe operation.
    • Evaluate additional places where you would most benefit from installing a CO detector.
    • Tune up your system so you know your heating and cooling is functioning at peak safety and efficiency.

Contact Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing

If your gas furnace, boiler or water heater has developed 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 promote a safe, warm home all year-round. Contact your local Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing office for more info about carbon monoxide safety or to ask for heating services.

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