Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless gas that can cause sickness and even death. It can affect you before you even know it’s there. Fortunately, there are a few simple steps to make sure you’re safe from carbon monoxide.
How Serious is CO Poisoning?
The CDC reports that at least 430 people in the U.S. die as a result of accidental CO poisoning each year. In addition, about 50,000 people a year seek emergency treatment for accidental CO poisoning.
Common Sources of CO in the Home
Carbon monoxide is present in the fumes produced by gas, wood, coal and kerosene heat sources such as:
- Gas furnaces
- Gas stoves
- Gas fireplaces
- Wood fireplaces
- Kerosene heaters
- Kerosene lanterns
- Portable generators
- Burning charcoal
How to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
The good news is, there are simple steps you can take to prevent CO poisoning.
Get an Annual Furnace Tune-Up
Do you turn on the furnace as soon as the mercury drops below 60, or do you hold out until you can see your breath in the air? Either way, getting your furnace checked each year will help keep you safe from carbon monoxide poisoning.
During an annual furnace tune-up, an HVAC technician, like the ones at Aspen Aire Heating and Cooling, will clean and test your heating system. This will ensure your furnace is operating safely and efficiently and that it’s venting properly.
Don’t Warm Up Vehicles in the Garage
On frigid Iowa mornings, climbing into a toasty warm car sounds like a dream come true.
Unfortunately, warming up your car in the garage could turn into a nightmare.
Leaving a vehicle running in an attached garage allows carbon monoxide to build up inside, even with the garage door open. The CO gas can then leak from the garage into the house, where it can be trapped for hours without your knowledge.
How to Warm Up Your Car Safely:
- Don’t run the car in the garage, even with the door open.
- Make sure there’s no snow or ice blocking the tailpipe.
- Move your vehicle out of the garage and then shut the garage door while it warms up.
Never Use Fuel-Powered Equipment Inside
Don’t use charcoal grills, gas generators and other equipment with combustible fuel engines inside the house or garage. The CO in their exhaust or smoke will build up in the enclosed space, and you won’t know until your carbon monoxide alarm goes off or you start to feel sick.
Have the Chimney Cleaned
If you have a wood-burning fireplace, have it cleaned and inspected at regular intervals. A blocked or dirty chimney can cause CO gas to build up inside your home.
Have Gas Fireplaces Checked
Gas fireplaces should also be inspected and tested periodically to ensure they’re properly ventilated.
Install Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Make sure there are working carbon monoxide detectors on every floor of your home. They’re typically located outside bedrooms, since you’re less likely to notice signs of CO poisoning while you’re sleeping. Use stand-alone devices or combined smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
Test the batteries in your carbon monoxide detectors every six months. To ensure you’re protected during a power outage, purchase battery-operated or battery-backup CO detectors if you don’t already have them.
Note: There’s no need to install a carbon monoxide detector in the garage. The cold temperatures here in the Des Moines area can cause the sensor to malfunction.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Symptoms
The first signs of CO poisoning are usually a headache and feeling dizzy and/or nauseated. These symptoms may worsen as the carbon monoxide builds up in your bloodstream. You may develop more symptoms, such as drowsiness, confusion, chest pain, a rapid heartbeat, vision problems, fast breathing, or seizures.
Continuing to breathe in carbon monoxide fumes can lead to unconsciousness and death. It can happen quicker than you may think, so it’s important to get away from the CO source as soon as possible.
What to Do If Your Carbon Monoxide Detector Goes Off
No matter the cause, if a carbon monoxide detector in your home goes off, leave immediately. Get all pets and people out of the house. Then call 911.
Schedule A Furnace Tune-Up
If you’re in the Des Moines, Iowa, area, contact Aspen Aire Heating & Cooling to schedule an annual furnace tune-up to help keep your home safe from CO poisoning.