carbon monoxide

Everything You Need to Know About Carbon Monoxide

CO detectorCarbon monoxide, or CO, is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas. Often called the “silent killer,” if inhaled, especially in large quantities, carbon monoxide can cause serious illness and even death.

According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between 2010 and 2015 more carbon monoxide poisoning caused more than 2200 deaths in the United States. The largest percentage of these tragic deaths occurred during the cold winter months of December, January, and February.

Common Carbon Monoxide Sources

Carbon monoxide is natural byproduct of any burning material. If you use fuel-burning appliances or have an attached garage, your home is more susceptible to increase levels of CO. Common sources of carbon monoxide in your home include:

Wood stoves and fireplaces

  • Water heaters
  • Gas stoves and ovens
  • Tobacco smoke
  • Space heaters
  • Power tools
  • Lawn equipment
  • Generators
  • Grills
  • Automobiles

Symptoms of CO Poisoning

Early symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning resemble flu symptoms. Prolonged exposure can cause the initial symptoms to worsen, leading to confusion, loss of consciousness, and even death.

  • Common signs of carbon monoxide poisoning may include:

    Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Shortness of breath
  • Blurred vision
  • Fainting
  • Sleepiness

People who are sleeping or intoxicated are often at a higher risk of suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning because they may be unaware of developing symptoms. Irreversible brain damage and death can easily occur before rising CO levels are discovered.

Seek Medical Help

The initial symptoms of CO poisoning can be subtle and often easy to miss. Since carbon monoxide poisoning is a potentially life-threatening situation, if you suspect you are someone else may be at risk, get fresh air immediately and contact emergency medical personnel.
How to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Fortunately, death from carbon monoxide poisoning can be prevented. A few simple steps like regular inspections of heating equipment and chimneys, as well as using a carbon monoxide detector will help lower the risks of CO exposure for you and your family.

Install Carbon Monoxide Detectors.

Carbon monoxide detectors are required by law in many states. However, even if they are not mandatory in your state, having them installed could save your life. Place one within 10 feet of rooms used for sleeping. Special CO detectors are also available for boats and motor homes.

Be sure to check the batteries in CO detectors regularly. Most manufacturers recommend replacing batteries twice each year to ensure your detectors are always working properly.

If the alarm on your CO detector goes off, leave the house immediately and call your local fire department. Put one in the hallway near each sleeping area in your house.

Never Start Your Car with the Garage Door Closed

It is dangerous to leave your vehicle running in a closed garage. CO is a natural byproduct of burning gasoline and is emitted through your car’s exhaust system. CO levels can rise rapidly in an unventilated area like a closed garage. Always open the garage door before starting your car.

Follow Safety Guidelines When Using Fuel-Powered Appliances

To ensure your family’s safety, always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines when using any fuel-powered appliances. Keep all fuel-burning appliances well vented for safety.

Some other safety precautions to follow include:

  • Never use a stove or oven to heat your living spaces.
  • Always use portable gas camp stoves outside.
  • Never use fuel-burning space heaters when sleeping.
  • Never use a generator in an enclosed space like a basement or garage.

Schedule Regular Maintenance for Your Heating System

Whether you use a fireplace, woodstove, or modern HVAC system to heat your home, regular maintenance is important for efficiency and safety.

If you use a fireplace or stove to heat your home, be sure to clean your fireplace chimney and flue before the first use of the season.

Your local HVAC professional can provide annual inspections of your HVAC system. Regularly scheduled inspection and maintenance are essential for proper and safe function. Also, a qualified technician can answer any questions you may have about the safety of your heating system or appliances.

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Essential Heating System Maintenance Checklist

checklistAs cold winter weather sweeps across the country, heating systems are turning on in droves. Your heating system works hard to keep your home warm and comfortable when outdoor temperatures become chilly. However, there are some simple steps you can take to make your system’s job a little easier.

Steps to Keep Your Heating System Running

Basic maintenance tasks are crucial to ensuring your heating system in peak condition and your home cozy until temperatures begin to rise in the spring. This heating system maintenance checklist covers all the maintenance jobs you should do now and throughout the cold season to keep your furnace or heat pump in tip top condition.

Change Your Filters.

A fresh filter will ensure your system is receiving adequate airflow. Changing your filter regularly will help your system remove airborne particles that can clog up air ducts and your system’s mechanical components. A clean furnace filter also helps your system function more efficiently, lowering your energy consumption and your utility bills.

Clear the Area Around Your Heating System.

Proper airflow is essential for your system to properly function. When items are stored around your heating unit, air flow can be restricted, forcing your system to work harder to heat your home.

Also, storing flammable substances like cleaners, paint, or gasoline near your heating system is a fire hazard. Be sure to leave a clear, 6-foot perimeter around your furnace or air handler.

If you have a heat pump system, regularly remove all yard debris surrounding your outdoor unit to ensure free air flow.

Clear Air Registers and Vents

Be sure that all registers and vents are unobstructed by furniture, area rugs, or other items. If anything is blocking them, move them to allow air to properly move through your home’s living space. Not only will this keep all areas of your home warm, it also allows your heating system to run more efficiently.

Program Your Thermostat

Once cold weather sets in, you need to reprogram your programmable thermostat. Adjusting the settings for winter temperature schedules will save you money on your heating bill, keep you more comfortable, and keep your system running efficiently.

Schedule Maintenance with a HVAC Professional

The best thing you can do to ensure your heating system continues running efficiently is to schedule maintenance with a local HVAC professional technician. An HVAC technician can cover technical checks most homeowners are not capable of tackling themselves.

A professional technician will inspect the entire system, clean and lubricate critical components. These preventive procedures will prevent inconvenient and uncomfortable system breakdowns. If you want to make sure your furnace or heat pump to runs smoothly and consumes less energy all winter long, a check-up performed by a qualified professional is a necessity.

Check Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Now is a good time to make sure your home’s carbon monoxide detectors are in good working order. During the cold season, fuel-burning heating systems create a carbon monoxide risk. Carbon monoxide is dangerous and a working carbon monoxide detector could save your life.

When an HVAC technician performs maintenance on your heating system, he or she will make sure all your system’s components are in good working order. This should prevent any carbon monoxide from being released into the home. However, carbon monoxide detectors should still be in place as a safety precaution.

If your home is not equipped with carbon monoxide detectors, install them immediately. There should be at least one on each floor of your home. Winter is a good time to check power sources on all carbon monoxide detectors. Replace batteries if necessary and test hard-wired connections. Test each unit individually using the test function to make sure they are working properly.

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