According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at least 20,000 people are sent to the emergency room every year following carbon monoxide poisoning. Also known as the “silent killer,” CO has been taking the lives of many unsuspecting people across the country for years. No matter how healthy you are, you should always be worried about this gas and take the necessary measures to avoid getting exposed to it.
If you have fuel-burning appliances in your home, you are at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning because these appliances release this gas from time to time, particularly when they’re not well-maintained. Luckily, there are ways to minimize carbon monoxide leaks in your home and protect your family from its negative effects.
What Carbon Monoxide Is
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, tasteless, and odorless gas that is released when fuel is burned. This is gas is released from cars and trucks as well as fuel-burning household appliances, such as furnaces, fireplaces, gas ranges, and grills. Since this gas is often released from wood, gasoline, gas, and charcoal, it’s likely that you have at least one source of this gas in your home.
Among the most common sources of CO in a typical home are fireplaces and stoves. During winter, you may decide to use your fireplace to keep your living room warm. If venting is not done properly in your home, then CO may build up inside as the wood burns. Similarly, your gas stove can produce carbon monoxide if you use it without proper ventilation.
The Effects of Carbon Monoxide
It is difficult to know when you are inhaling carbon monoxide because of the physical properties of this gas. However, when you inhale too much of this gas, you may develop serious health complications. CO displaces oxygen in the blood; when that happens, your brain, heart, and other important organs in your body lack oxygen. In large amounts, this gas can overwhelm your body system and make you unconscious. Some of the early symptoms you may get indicating carbon monoxide poisoning include dizziness, headache, drowsiness, fatigue, and nausea.
As you continue inhaling the gas, you may also start experiencing confusion, vomiting, muscle weakness, and even lose consciousness. If things get worse, you may suffer from permanent brain damage, experience a life-threatening heart complication, or even die.
Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms vary from one person to another. If you have young children or an elderly person living in your home, they may experience the symptoms faster or get into a critical state quicker than most people. Moreover, you would be more susceptible to the symptoms of this gas if you have heart or lung disease.
Although it’s important to know the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, the best way to prevent anyone in your home from getting carbon monoxide poisoning is to prevent exposure from occurring in the first place. In most cases, carbon monoxide poisoning can be prevented by taking a few measures.
Know Your Appliances
The first thing you want to do is find out which appliances in and around your house burn fuel. Do you have a furnace that burns gas? Is your power washer powered by gasoline? Do you use a gas stove to cook?
Make a careful inspection of all your appliances and note down all the units that burn fuel. When you complete your list, call a professional to have the appliances inspected. Some of them may have cracks that may leak carbon monoxide. You may discover one or more that are not burning the fuel completely, leading to CO production. A professional will also check whether these appliances were installed properly or whether they are being properly maintained.
Install Carbon Monoxide Detectors
One of the best ways of protecting yourself and your family from the effects of carbon monoxide is installing a modern carbon monoxide detector. A CO detector will constantly measure the levels of CO in your home and warn you when they become too high. You should have a CO detector in all major spots in your home, including the living room and kitchen.
Once your detectors are in place, you have to ensure that they are maintained regularly. Many families are living with dysfunctional CO detectors without knowing it. If your detector is not working, it won’t help you when your home’s CO levels increase.
Ensure That Your Fuel-Burning Appliances Have Enough Ventilation
If your gas appliances are ventilated properly, it would be harder for them to fill your home with CO. As a professional inspects your gas appliances, ensure that they also confirm that the appliances are well-ventilated. This way, you won’t have issues with carbon monoxide leaks.
Avoid Cutting Corners
Many people find it easier to fix vent pipes themselves when they’re broken or cracked instead of calling an expert. Unfortunately, most of the methods they use to fix them are usually unsuccessful or temporarily effective. If you discover a damaged vent pipe, don’t patch it with gum or tape. Doing so can result in an unwarranted carbon monoxide build-up in your home. No matter how small the issue seems, always contact a certified HVAC expert to repair the pipe professionally.
Avoid Grilling Indoors
Grilling indoors may be fun until someone develops health complications in your home. Propane, charcoal, and other forms of fuel that we use to power grills and stoves release a lot of CO. Using these appliances indoors prevents proper ventilation, leading to a quick and unsafe build-up. You should only do your grilling outside where there is enough space for the CO to disperse.
Signs That You Have a Carbon Monoxide Leak
Although you cannot see, smell or taste CO, there are a few signs you can look for to determine a CO build-up or leakage in your home. If you see a heavy condensation on your windows where you’ve installed your appliance and you’ve already taken measures to lower moisture production, you should consider it a major sign of a CO leak. Check your appliance for brownish-yellow stains. If you see those, then CO is probably leaking from your appliance. There are many other signs that you can look out for. They include the following:
- Stale or stuffy air
- Soot, fumes, or smoke from a chimney
- Fumes from your fireplace
- No upward draft in your chimney flue
- Solid fuel fires burning slower than usual
- Pilot light is blowing out frequently
- Yellow burner flame (not the usual blue flame)
If these signs are accompanied by other less obvious signs, such as feeling better when you are away from home or your pets appearing ill, then you should get an expert to test the levels of carbon monoxide in your home.
If you want to have your appliances checked, repaired, or maintained by a professional to keep your family members from being exposed to carbon monoxide, we’re the team to call. Summit Heating & A/C has all the experience and skills required to ensure that you never have to worry about CO poisoning in your home in Denver, CO. We also maintain, repair, and install heating and cooling systems. Call us today to learn more about our services.