Like most homeowners, you’re probably aware of the risks of carbon monoxide poisoning and may have taken measures to protect yourself, such as installing carbon monoxide detectors. Though we hear warnings about it often, you may still be unsure of what carbon monoxide is, why it’s dangerous and what else you can do to protect yourself.
Fortunately, we’re here to give you a rundown of carbon monoxide poisoning detection and prevention tips so you can be sure you and your family are prepared and protected.
What Is Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?
Carbon monoxide is one of the most dangerous gases that could accumulate in your home. It’s odorless, colorless and impossible to detect without specialized equipment, meaning that it’s more likely to go unnoticed than other gases.
In fact, many people are killed by carbon monoxide before they’re even aware of its presence. This risk is heightened in the winter due to the increased use of stoves, generators and heaters that can give off this gas.
What Are the Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?
The early signs of carbon monoxide poisoning mimic the flu, though it usually doesn’t cause a fever. Because these symptoms are similar to many illnesses that are common in the cold winter months, they’re more likely to be attributed to seasonal illness than carbon monoxide.
Low to moderate exposure to carbon monoxide has the following symptoms:
- Shortness of breath.
Significant exposure results in more serious symptoms, such as:
- Loss of muscular coordination.
- Loss of consciousness.
Without treatment, carbon monoxide can be fatal.
Where Does Carbon Monoxide Come From?
Despite its hazards, carbon monoxide can come from the most ordinary of household sources. Generally, any home appliance that burns natural gas, wood, propane, oil, coal or charcoal can be a potential source of carbon monoxide.
Because of this, it’s important to have regular, professional inspections of appliances to ensure they’re functioning properly.
Appliances and other devices that have the potential to cause carbon monoxide leaks include:
- Water heaters.
- Space heaters.
- Wood stoves.
- Propane grills.
- Charcoal grills.
Most likely, you own at least a few of these appliances and operate them on occasion, putting you at potential risk for carbon monoxide poisoning. While it’s impossible to remove the risk completely, proper preventive measures can go a long way toward protecting you and your family.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention
Common appliances can result in carbon monoxide leaks, but there are plenty of preventive measures you can take to minimize the risk as much as possible.
Install Carbon Monoxide Detectors
The single most important preventive measure is installing carbon monoxide detectors in your home. There are a few guidelines to follow to ensure that you install your detectors properly and in the optimal locations, such as:
- On each floor of the home, so that the alarm can always be heard.
- Outside of your sleeping areas, to ensure you’ll wake up.
- Near appliances that carry a higher risk of carbon monoxide leaks, but not closer than 15 feet, as that can cause false alarms.
- On ceilings, since gas rises with the hot air.
- Away from drafty areas, like vents, windows and air registers.
- Away from bathrooms, which can trigger false alarms with steam or heat.
- Away from direct sunlight, which can trigger false alarms.
The importance of carbon monoxide detectors can’t be underestimated. Because carbon monoxide gas is undetectable without them, this is your first line of defense in the event of a leak.
Test Your Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Once you install your carbon monoxide detectors in prime locations, it’s important to test each one of them to be sure they’ll work in a crisis. They should also be tested periodically to ensure they’re working properly and prepared to alert you.
Remember the Signs and Symptoms
Knowing the common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning is a huge help in protecting yourself. Remember that mild exposure has flu-like symptoms, and don’t take any chances if you or a family member begin to show any possible symptoms.
Clean Your Gas Dryer Filter
Though a dryer isn’t on the list of the most common appliances that may produce carbon monoxide, it does pose a potential risk. If you have a gas dryer, the lint that builds up in the filter could raise your risk of carbon monoxide leaks. If it blocks the vent, the carbon monoxide that builds up in the machine can’t escape and may leak out.
This is also a fire risk, so it’s important to clean out your filter each time you use your dryer to reduce the risk of both fire and carbon monoxide poisoning.
Develop an Emergency Plan
Fire drills are common in many places, but carbon monoxide poisoning drills aren’t always performed. In high-stress situations such as this, it’s important to have a plan in place to get everyone out of the house in an emergency. Run through carbon monoxide drills with your family to be sure everyone avoids panic and knows the steps to get to safety.
Maintain Your Appliances
Any appliance that is a potential source of carbon monoxide should be cleaned, inspected and serviced on a regular basis to ensure it’s performing optimally. This should be done by a professional contractor to ensure that the appliance and all of its components are healthy.
Regular appliance maintenance and other household maintenance may include cleaning a chimney, cleaning air ducts or clearing out vents that may be blocked and similar tasks. Though this may seem excessive, proper maintenance and cleaning of your appliances significantly reduces the risk of carbon monoxide leaks.
Visit Legacy Air
Armed with information and these preventive measures, you’re prepared to protect your family from the risks of carbon monoxide poisoning.
If you need regular maintenance of your heating systems, Legacy Air can help. We offer a comprehensive maintenance program that covers your heating and cooling equipment and includes seasonal tune-ups, so you can be sure your appliances are always in working order. Contact us today to learn more!