How to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Leaks in Your Home

Winter temperatures encourage homeowners to seal up their homes and crank up the thermostat, elevating the risk of carbon monoxide (CO) exposure. Close to 50,000 people in the U.S. end up in the emergency room each year as a result of unintended CO poisoning, and more than 400 people die.

This odorless, tasteless, colorless gas is a side effect of imperfect combustion, meaning it’s created every 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 poisoning. Learn what happens when you breathe in carbon monoxide emissions and how to lower your risk of poisoning this winter.

The Danger of Carbon Monoxide

Frequently referred to as the “silent killer,” carbon monoxide is lethal because it stops the body from processing oxygen properly. CO molecules dislodge 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, causing loss of consciousness and suffocation. Without prompt care, brain damage or death can occur.

Carbon monoxide poisoning can also happen progressively if the concentration is fairly modest. The most prevalent signs of CO poisoning include:

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

Since these symptoms mimic the flu, a lot of people never learn they have carbon monoxide poisoning until minor symptoms progress to organ damage. Watch out for symptoms that decrease when you leave home, illustrating the source could be someplace inside.

Carbon Monoxide Safety Tips

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

Use Combustion Appliances Properly

  • Don't run your car engine while parked in an enclosed or partially enclosed structure, like a garage.
  • Do not leave a generator, lawn mower or other gasoline-powered device in an enclosed 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.
  • Never use a charcoal grill or small camping stove in a home, tent or camper.
  • Keep all vents and flues clear of debris that can create a blockage and encourage backdrafting of carbon monoxide gases.

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

If you ever use combustion appliances in or around your home, you should put in carbon monoxide detectors to notify you of CO emissions. These devices can be hardwired, battery-operated or plugged into an outlet depending on the style. Here’s how to reap all the benefits of your carbon monoxide detectors:

  • Install your detectors properly: As you review possible locations, keep in mind that your home needs CO alarms on all floors, near any 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 the wall or ceiling you can put in your detectors, the better.
  • Check your detectors consistently: The majority of manufacturers recommend monthly testing to confirm your CO alarms are operating properly. Just 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 quick beeps, see a flash or both. If the detector does not work as expected, swap out the batteries or replace the unit entirely.
  • Swap out the batteries: If these detectors are battery-powered models, exchange the batteries every six months. If you prefer hardwired devices with a backup battery, replace the battery once a year or when the alarm begins to chirp, whichever comes first. Then, install new carbon monoxide alarms every 10 years or whenever the manufacturer recommends.

Plan for Annual Furnace Maintenance

Many appliances, such as furnaces, water heaters, fireplaces and clothes dryers, can leak carbon monoxide if the appliance is installed incorrectly or not running as it should. A yearly maintenance visit is the only way to know for sure if an appliance is faulty before a leak develops.

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

  • Check the heating appliance for carbon monoxide leaks.
  • Look for any malfunctions that might cause unsafe operation.
  • Evaluate additional spaces where you might benefit from putting in a CO detector.
  • Tune up your system so you know your equipment is running at peak safety and efficiency.

Contact Winnipeg Supply Service Experts

If your gas furnace, boiler or water heater has sprung 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 encourage a safe, comfortable home all year-round. Call your local Winnipeg Supply Service Experts office for more information about carbon monoxide safety or to ask for heating services.

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