Carbon Monoxide – What Homeowners Need to Know

During the winter months, the dangers of carbon monoxide are a very real threat to homeowners. Known as the “silent killer”, the potentially deadly gas has no color, no smell, no taste and makes no sound when it leaks into a home. Many people who are exposed to carbon monoxide do not realize they are being poisoned, as at low doses, the gas causes symptoms similar to the flu. Learning how to prevent a carbon monoxide leak and understanding the the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning could help avoid deadly consequences.

Where Carbon Monoxide Comes From

Carbon monoxide is a gas that is a byproduct of the combustion of natural gas, propane, gasoline, kerosene, wood, coal, and charcoal. In most homes, the focus of concern is a natural gas furnace. Incomplete combustion of the gas is one way that carbon monoxide can infiltrate a house. Another way is due to improper ventilation of the furnace. A blockage in the furnace flue or chimney vent prevents the gas from getting out of the home. Because most homes are tightly sealed during the winter months, carbon monoxide poisoning events are most common during this time of the year. Other common causes of carbon monoxide within the home include malfunctioning or improperly ventilated gas appliances; the improper use of space heaters; and running the car within an attached garage.

The Dangers of Carbon Monoxide

When a person breathes in carbon monoxide gas, the molecules of the gas replace oxygen molecules in the blood. The body is slowly starved of oxygen. At low levels of carbon monoxide in the blood, people will develop symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, dizziness, muscle aches, and weakness. As carbon monoxide levels in the blood increase, symptoms such as a red coloration of the skin and face, lightheadedness, nausea and vomiting may occur. As carbon monoxide levels continue to rise, shortness of breath, chest pain, and loss of consciousness may develop. Finally, death may occur as a result of insufficient oxygenation of the brain and body. People who survive carbon monoxide poisoning may experience long-term effects including heart damage, impaired memory and cognition and loss of brain function.

How to Prevent a Carbon Monoxide Leak

Each year, gas-burning appliances and heating systems should be inspected by a trained and licensed professional. The inspection should include checking the flue and ventilation system for blockages, cracks, missing tiles and other problems. Prompt repair of malfunctioning furnaces and gas appliances is also essential in the prevention of carbon monoxide leaks. Homeowners who choose to use a gas-fired space heater or wood stove should ensure proper ventilation and functioning of the heater. Avoiding starting cars in attached garages is another way to reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Any generator, propane or charcoal barbeque grill should not be used in an attached garage or near any doors or windows.

How to Use Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Carbon monoxide detectors should be placed near the furnace as well as adjacent to bedrooms. Ideally, there should be at least one detector on each level of a home. Do not put the detector behind furniture or drapes where its sensors will not be able to draw in air. Check the alarms on a monthly basis to ensure they’re working properly. If the detector requires batteries, replace the batteries with new ones every six months. If the detector can be plugged into an outlet and uses batteries, use both options. The batteries will cause the alarm to sound even if the power goes out.

What to Do If Your Carbon Monoxide Detectors Go Off

When the carbon monoxide detector’s alarm sounds, it should be taken seriously. Homeowners should be certain to know the difference in sounds that the detector makes when it needs new batteries versus when the device is detecting unsafe levels of carbon monoxide gas in the air. If the alarm is sounding, all members of the household should leave the house immediately. Once everyone has left the house, the local emergency services number should be called. Emergency personnel along with heating company service technicians can shut down the furnace and other gas-fired appliances and air out the house. Once the house is safe to enter, the repair technicians can fix the problem that caused the carbon monoxide to leak.

At WA Air Conditioning, our experienced heating and air conditioning service technicians offer furnace inspections to help ensure the safety of you and your family. We also offer furnace repairs and maintenance so that the furnace can properly do its job. To schedule an inspection, repair, or any other heating service in Trinity, TX, give us a call.

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February 18, 2014 6:23 pm