How to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Leaks in Your Home

Winter temperatures lead homeowners to seal up their homes and crank up the thermostat, increasing the risk of carbon monoxide (CO) exposure. About 50,000 people in the U.S. visit the emergency room annually due to accidental CO poisoning, and more than 400 people die. 

This odorless, tasteless, colorless gas is a result of incomplete combustion, which means it’s released each time a material burns. If the appliances in your home run on natural gas, oil, propane, kerosene, wood, gasoline or charcoal, you’re at risk of CO exposure. Learn what happens when you breathe carbon monoxide fumes and how to lower 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 using oxygen properly. CO molecules displace 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, leading to loss of consciousness and suffocation. Without immediate care, brain damage or death can occur. 

Carbon monoxide poisoning can also happen 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, numerous people won’t discover they have carbon monoxide poisoning until mild symptoms progress to organ damage. Watch out for symptoms that lessen when you leave home, suggesting the source could be somewhere inside. 

Carbon Monoxide Safety Tips 

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

Operate Combustion Appliances Safely 

  • Never let your car engine run while parked in an enclosed or partially enclosed structure, such as a garage. 
  • Never run a generator, lawn mower or other gasoline-powered tool in an enclosed space such as a basement or garage, no matter how well-ventilated it is. Also, keep these devices at least 20 feet away from open windows, doors or intake vents. 
  • Never use a charcoal grill or portable camping stove inside a home, tent or camper. 
  • Keep all vents and flues free of debris that could lead to a blockage and cause backdrafting of carbon monoxide fumes. 

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

If you ever operate combustion appliances in or around your home, you should install carbon monoxide detectors to notify you of CO leaks. These devices can be hardwired, battery-operated or plugged into an outlet according to the style. Here’s how to make the most of your carbon monoxide detectors: 

  • Install your detectors correctly: As you review potential locations, remember that your home needs CO alarms on all floors, near every sleeping area and close 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 place your detectors, the better. 
  • Check your detectors consistently: Most manufacturers recommend monthly testing to ensure your CO alarms are operating properly. Simply press and hold the Test button for 5 to 20 seconds, wait for the alarm to sound and release the button. You ought to hear two quick beeps, observe a flash or both. If the detector doesn’t work as expected, change the batteries or replace the unit outright. 
  • Swap out the batteries: If you have battery-powered models, change the batteries every six months. If you have hardwired devices that use a backup battery, replace 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 often as the manufacturer recommends. 

Plan for Annual Furnace Maintenance 

Multiple appliances, including furnaces, water heaters, fireplaces and clothes dryers, can leak carbon monoxide if the appliance is installed poorly or not running as it should. An annual maintenance visit is the only way to know for sure if an appliance is malfunctioning before a leak develops. 

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

  • Check the heating appliance for carbon monoxide leaks. 
  • Look for any problems that could cause unsafe operation. 
  • Assess additional areas where you could benefit from installing a CO detector. 
  • Tune up your system so you know your equipment is functioning at peak safety and efficiency. 

Contact Calverley Service Experts 

If your gas furnace, boiler or water heater has developed a CO leak, or you want to prevent leaks before they happen, Calverley Service Experts can help. Our HVAC maintenance and repair services promote a safe, comfortable home all year-round. Call your local Calverley Service Experts office for more details about carbon monoxide safety or to schedule heating services

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