As we make the transition from the cooling season to the heating season, it’s a good time to review the potential danger of carbon monoxide in your home.
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas that is highly toxic when inhaled. It is produced by the incomplete burning of various fuels such as coal, wood, charcoal, oil/gasoline, kerosene and natural gas.
Nearly all homes contain some “flame fueled” products or appliances that burn these fossil fuels. They include gas water heaters, gas or oil furnaces, fireplaces, gas clothes dryers, automobiles, charcoal grills, etc. It is important that all these items are properly vented to prevent a build-up of CO in a given area.
Because CO is undetectable to the human senses, you may not know if you are being exposed to it. Initial symptoms of low to moderate CO poisoning are similar to the flu, and include headache, fatigue, nausea and dizziness. As the concentration of CO reaches higher levels, these symptoms become progressively more sever and may include mental confusion, vomiting and loss of consciousness.
Follow these safety tips to help prevent CO poisoning in your home.
• Do not run your car engine for more than a few moments in a garage, even with the overhead door open.
• Before the start of the heating season, have your chimney, fireplace and flues inspected and cleaned if necessary. This is also a good time to test your smoke detector and replace the battery as needed.
• Never use a portable electric generator, charcoal grill, camp stove (or similar device) inside your home, basement or any confined area.
• Watch for clues that home appliances may be malfunctioning or emitting toxic gas. Common indicators include: a decrease in the hot water supply, soot on appliances and vents, increased moisture inside windows, and furnaces that do not heat properly.
If you suspect there may be a leak or accumulation of CO, get to fresh air immediately. A carbon monoxide detector, installed on each level of the home, is an effective way to be alerted to the presence of CO.