How to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Leaks in Your Home

Icy temperatures lead homeowners to secure their homes and turn up the thermostat, expanding the risk of carbon monoxide (CO) exposure. Close to 50,000 people in the U.S. go to the emergency room every year as a result 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 released 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 susceptible to CO inhalation. Learn what happens when you inhale carbon monoxide gases and how to lower your risk of poisoning this winter.

The Danger of Carbon Monoxide

Often called the “silent killer,” carbon monoxide is lethal because it prevents the body from taking in oxygen correctly. CO molecules uproot oxygen that’s part of the blood, starving the heart, brain, lungs and other vital organs of oxygen. Large volumes of CO can overpower your system in minutes, triggering loss of consciousness and suffocation. Without urgent care, brain damage or death may occur.

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

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

As these symptoms mimic the flu, many people never discover they have carbon monoxide poisoning until mild symptoms advance to organ damage. Be wary of symptoms that lessen when you aren’t home, indicating the source could be originating from inside.

Carbon Monoxide Safety Tips

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

Use Combustion Appliances Properly

    • Never let your car engine run while parked in a confined or partially enclosed building, like a garage.
    • Never run a generator, lawn mower or other gasoline-powered system in a confined space such as a basement or garage, irrespective 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 small camping stove inside a home, tent or camper.
    • Keep all vents and flues free of debris that can create a blockage and cause backdrafting of carbon monoxide gases.

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

If you ever use combustion appliances in or near your home, you should put in carbon monoxide detectors to alert you of CO gas. These alarms 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 securely: As you consider possible locations, don’t forget that your home does best with CO alarms on every floor, near any sleeping area and near the garage. Keep each unit a safe distance from combustion appliances as well as sources of heat and humidity. The higher on the wall or ceiling you can put in your detectors, the better.
    • Test your detectors consistently: The majority of manufacturers encourage monthly testing to make sure your CO alarms are functioning properly. Simply press and hold the Test button for 5 to 20 seconds, wait for the alarm to begin and release the button. You ought to hear two quick beeps, see a flash or both. If the detector won’t perform as anticipated, swap out the batteries or replace the unit altogether.
    • Swap out the batteries: If you have battery-powered models, swap out the batteries after six months. If you prefer hardwired devices with a backup battery, change out the battery once a year or if the alarm begins to chirp, whichever comes first. Then, install new carbon monoxide alarms every 10 years or whenever the manufacturer suggests.

Plan for Annual Furnace Maintenance

Multiple appliances, such as furnaces, water heaters, fireplaces and clothes dryers, could release carbon monoxide if the equipment is installed incorrectly or not running as it should. A once-a-year maintenance visit is the only way to know for sure if an appliance is defective before a leak appears.

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

    • Examine the heating appliance for carbon monoxide leaks.
    • Search for any malfunctions that might cause unsafe operation.
    • Assess additional spaces where you might benefit from setting up a CO detector.
    • Tune up your system so you know your equipment is operating 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 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. Call your local Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing office for more info about carbon monoxide safety or to request heating services.

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