Carbon monoxide, or CO, is a colorless, odorless gas that can kill. It’s something we take very seriously as a provider of repair, service, and installation of heating systems, because furnaces are a source of carbon monoxide gas. Here at Brody Pennell, we see this as a very important health and safety issue. Homeowners should have a full understanding of the dangers of carbon monoxide and know what the warning signs are of CO poisoning. And most important of all, what you can do to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning in your household.
How is Carbon Monoxide Produced?
Carbon monoxide is found in the fumes of any fuel-burning device. The gas is created when there is an incomplete combustion of fossil fuels or hydrocarbons. It’s normal for fuel-burning equipment to produce carbon monoxide; the problem is more in how the CO is dispersed.
Since the gas is poisonous to living beings, it’s important to ensure that systems are in place to remove any carbon monoxide gas to the outside air. Some examples of this include the exhaust pipe on a car, or the chimney on a fireplace. When these exhaust systems become blocked, enclosed, or leak, it becomes a safety risk.
The most common sources of carbon monoxide include: cars with gasoline or diesel engines, stoves, furnaces that use heating oil, grills, lanterns, furnaces, and any other item that works by burning fuel.
Symptoms of CO Poisoning
Since carbon monoxide has no color or smell, you may not even be aware when the air in your home has high concentrations of the gas. So, it’s critical to be aware of the symptoms of CO poisoning.
The onset of symptoms is usually gradual, and sometimes the individual may not be fully aware that it’s even happening. The most common symptoms include:
- Dizziness, headache, and fatigue
- Nausea, upset stomach, and vomiting
- Loss of alertness or consciousness
As you can see, these symptoms are very similar to other conditions. A person might think they have the flu or a bad migraine. That’s what makes carbon monoxide poisoning so dangerous. Many people who suffer from CO poisoning do so while intoxicated, sleeping, or even just sitting in a chair.
Preventing Carbon Monoxide Poisoning at Home
While CO poisoning may have serious consequences, prevention is actually very easy.
Every home should have a carbon monoxide detector. It is your first – and best – line of defense in detecting high levels of carbon monoxide. According to the EPA, locate your carbon monoxide detector at least 5 feet above the floor and nearby sleeping areas so it can wake you up in the night. Although it might make sense to put it right next to the garage doorway or near your furnace, that may trigger false alarms. Finally, remember that every floor in your home needs at least one carbon monoxide detector.
Here are some other ways to prevent CO poisoning at home:
- Make sure heating appliances, such as stoves and furnaces, are well-vented. This will prevent accumulation of carbon monoxide in the room.
- Schedule heating maintenance annually and make sure the service is done by a qualified HVAC contractor.
- Never burn charcoal indoors or underneath an overhang.
- Do not use a fuel-burning generator indoors, in a garage, or underneath an overhang
- Ensure the doorway to your garage is well-sealed and never run a vehicle with the garage door closed.
- Improve the ventilation of your home by opening screened windows on a nice day or adding a mechanical ventilator to your HVAC system.
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