How to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Leaks in Your Home

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

This odorless, tasteless, colorless gas is a result of incomplete combustion, which means it’s created each time a material is combusted or used for fuel. If any appliances in your home use natural gas, oil, propane, kerosene, wood, gasoline or charcoal, you’re vulnerable to CO poisoning. Find out what happens when you inhale carbon monoxide gases and how to minimize your risk of poisoning this winter.

The Dangers of Carbon Monoxide

Often referred to as the “silent killer,” carbon monoxide is lethal because it keeps the body from using oxygen correctly. CO molecules displace oxygen within the blood, starving the heart, brain, lungs and other vital organs of oxygen. Dense concentrations of CO can overtake your system in minutes, leading to loss of consciousness and suffocation. Without prompt care, brain damage or death may occur.

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

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

Because these symptoms mimic the flu, many people don’t find out they have carbon monoxide poisoning until moderate symptoms advance to organ damage. Look out for symptoms that lessen when you aren’t home, suggesting the source could be somewhere inside.

Carbon Monoxide Safety Tips

While CO poisoning is alarming, it’s also entirely avoidable. Here are the ideal ways to help your family avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.

Run Combustion Appliances Correctly

    • Never let your car engine run while parked in a covered or partially enclosed building, like a garage.
    • Do not run a generator, lawn mower or other gasoline-powered device in a smaller space like a basement or garage, irrespective of how well-ventilated it is. 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 clear of debris that could create a blockage and trigger 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 install carbon monoxide detectors to notify you of CO emissions. These alarms 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 consider possible locations, remember that your home does best with CO alarms on each floor, near each sleeping area and adjacent to the garage. Keep each unit away from combustion appliances as well as sources of heat and humidity. The higher on your wall or ceiling you can place your detectors, the better.
    • Review your detectors regularly: The bulk of manufacturers recommend monthly testing to ensure your CO alarms are operating properly. You can press and hold the Test button for 5 to 20 seconds, wait for the alarm to start and release the button. You ought to hear two brief beeps, see a flash or both. If the detector doesn’t perform as it’s supposed to, change the batteries or replace the unit entirely.
    • Change out the batteries: If you have battery-powered models, change the batteries after six months. If you favor hardwired devices that use 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 whenever the manufacturer recommends.

Plan for Annual Furnace Maintenance

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

A precision tune-up from Winnipeg Supply Service Experts consists of the following:

    • Examine the heating appliance for carbon monoxide leaks.
    • Spot any troubling concerns that could cause unsafe operation.
    • Evaluate additional places where you would most benefit from putting in a CO detector.
    • Tune up your system so you know your heating and cooling is functioning at peak safety and productivity.

Contact Winnipeg Supply Service Experts

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

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