How to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Leaks in Your Home

Cold temperatures encourage homeowners to batten down their homes and crank up the thermostat, increasing the risk of carbon monoxide (CO) inhalation. Close to 50,000 people in the U.S. go to the emergency room every year because of unintended CO poisoning, and more than 400 people die.

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

The Dangers of Carbon Monoxide

Commonly called the “silent killer,” carbon monoxide is lethal because it prevents 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 overwhelm your system in minutes, triggering loss of consciousness and suffocation. Without prompt care, brain damage or death can occur.

Carbon monoxide poisoning can also occur progressively if the concentration is relatively low. The most frequent signs of CO exposure include:

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

Since these symptoms mimic the flu, numerous people never find out they have carbon monoxide poisoning until mild symptoms advance to organ damage. Be wary of symptoms that lessen when you leave home, indicating the source might be originating from inside.

Carbon Monoxide Safety Tips

While CO exposure is frightening, it’s also entirely avoidable. Here are the best ways to help your family avoid carbon monoxide exposure.

Run Combustion Appliances Properly

    • Don’t leave your car running while parked in a confined or partially enclosed building, such as a garage.
    • Don’t run a generator, lawn mower or other gasoline-powered device in an enclosed space like a basement or garage, irrespective 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 transportable camping stove in a home, tent or camper.
    • Keep all vents and flues clear of debris that may lead to a blockage and encourage backdrafting of carbon monoxide fumes.

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

If you ever operate combustion appliances in or close to your home, you should put in carbon monoxide detectors to warn you of CO leaks. These detectors 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 properly: As you review the best locations, don’t forget that a home needs CO alarms on all floors, near any sleeping area and near the garage. Keep each unit out of reach from combustion appliances and sources of heat and humidity. The higher on your wall or ceiling you can install your detectors, the better.
    • Review your detectors on a regular basis: The bulk of manufacturers suggest monthly testing to confirm 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 should hear two brief beeps, watch a flash or both. If the detector does not perform as expected, replace the batteries or replace the unit outright.
    • Swap out the batteries: If these detectors are battery-powered models, exchange the batteries after six months. If you prefer hardwired devices using a backup battery, change 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.

Plan for Annual Furnace Maintenance

Many appliances, such as furnaces, water heaters, fireplaces and clothes dryers, can leak carbon monoxide if the equipment is installed incorrectly or not performing as it should. An annual maintenance visit is the only way to ensure if an appliance is defective before a leak appears.

A precision tune-up from Norrell Service Experts includes the following:

    • Examine the heating appliance for carbon monoxide leaks.
    • Spot any troubling concerns that might lead to unsafe operation.
    • Assess additional spaces where you might benefit from installing a CO detector.
    • Tune up your system so you know your heating and cooling is operating at peak safety and efficiency.

Contact Norrell Service Experts

If your gas furnace, boiler or water heater has sprung a CO leak, or you want to thwart leaks before they happen, Norrell Service Experts can help. Our HVAC and plumbing maintenance and repair services help provide a safe, comfortable home all year-round. Get in touch with your local Norrell Service Experts office for more info about carbon monoxide safety or to schedule heating services.

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