How to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Leaks in Your Home

Icy temperatures encourage 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 as a result of accidental CO poisoning, and more than 400 people die.

This odorless, tasteless, colorless gas is a side effect of imperfect combustion, meaning it’s created any time a material burns. If any appliances in your home use natural gas, oil, propane, kerosene, wood, gasoline or charcoal, you’re at risk of CO exposure. Learn what happens when you breathe carbon monoxide emissions and how to reduce your risk of exposure this winter.

The Dangers of Carbon Monoxide

Frequently called the “silent killer,” carbon monoxide is lethal because it stops the body from taking in oxygen appropriately. CO molecules uproot oxygen within the blood, starving the heart, brain, lungs and other vital organs of oxygen. Large volumes of CO can overtake your system in minutes, triggering loss of consciousness and suffocation. Without urgent care, brain damage or death could occur.

Carbon monoxide poisoning can also happen slowly if the concentration is relatively low. The most prevalent signs of CO exposure include:

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

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

Carbon Monoxide Safety Tips

While CO inhalation is intimidating, it’s also entirely preventable. Here are the ideal ways to protect your family from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Use Combustion Appliances Correctly

  • Don't leave your car running while parked in a confined or partially enclosed structure, such as a garage.
  • Don't run a generator, lawn mower or other gasoline-powered tool in an indoor 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.
  • Never use a charcoal grill or transportable camping stove inside a home, tent or camper.
  • Keep all vents and flues clear of debris that can lead to a blockage and trigger backdrafting of carbon monoxide fumes.

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

If you ever use combustion appliances in or around your home, you should install carbon monoxide detectors to warn you of CO emissions. 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 potential locations, don't forget that a home needs CO alarms on every floor, near every sleeping area and near the garage. Keep each unit away from combustion appliances and sources of heat and humidity. The higher on a wall or ceiling you can put in your detectors, the better.
  • Review your detectors regularly: The bulk of manufacturers recommend monthly testing to ensure your CO alarms are working correctly. You can press and hold the Test button for 5 to 20 seconds, wait for the alarm to begin and let go of the button. You should hear two brief beeps, watch a flash or both. If the detector doesn’t work as it's supposed to, change the batteries or replace the unit entirely.
  • Swap out the batteries: If your alarms are battery-powered models, change the batteries after six months. If you have 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 suggests.

Plan for Annual Furnace Maintenance

Multiple appliances, like furnaces, water heaters, fireplaces and clothes dryers, could leak carbon monoxide if the equipment is installed incorrectly or not running as it should. A yearly maintenance visit is the only way to ensure if an appliance is faulty before a leak develops.

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

  • Check the heating appliance for carbon monoxide leaks.
  • Look for any malfunctions that may lead to unsafe operation.
  • Assess additional spaces where you would most benefit from setting up a CO detector.
  • Tune up your system so you know your heating and cooling is running at peak safety and effectiveness.

Contact Freschi Service Experts

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

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