You know it’s your job to protect your family. You do everything you can to keep your loved ones safe, but there’s a threat that you might not have considered because it’s completely invisible. It’s colorless, tasteless, and odorless. We’re talking about carbon monoxide (kind of like carbon dioxide, but with one less oxygen atom.) Carbon monoxide (CO) exposure can cause serious illness and even death. Saying “carbon monoxide is bad” is a severe understatement. Carbon monoxide is dangerous, but there are things that you can do to help reduce your family’s risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. We’ll go over what you need to look out for and how you can prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
What are the symptoms of CO poisoning?
Carbon monoxide poisoning often produces “flu-like” symptoms. These can include…
- Upset stomach
- Throwing up
- Chest pain
Exposure to CO in high levels can lead to death. CO might not be as fearsome as a tornado, but it’s scary stuff. If you and your family feel these symptoms frequently while you’re at home, do a little test. Leave the house for a few hours and see if your symptoms get better. If they do and you suspect carbon monoxide, you need to do some further investigating to figure out what the source is and how to resolve the problem.
Where does carbon monoxide come from?
Carbon monoxide forms when fuels don’t burn completely. The fuel can be in solid, liquid, or gas form. Many household appliances, like furnaces, water heaters, stoves, and fireplaces, burn these fuels, so one of the most common reasons for CO in the home is when these appliances are used or installed improperly.
What can I do to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning?
1. Check your appliances.
The flame burning on your appliances should be blue, not orange. If the flame is orange, you need to turn off the appliance and enlist the help of professionals ASAP.
2. Get your appliances professionally inspected.
It’s a good idea to have a professional come out to check all of your appliances – plus your chimney and grill – once a year to make sure they’re all functioning as they should.
3. Be careful what you turn on in the home.
Things like grills, generators, and portable camp stoves should not be turned on in an enclosed space. They give off carbon monoxide, and that could turn dangerous if you bring them inside.
A general rule is don’t use things that burn fuel in a closed space. That could include space heaters if you have a fuel-burning one.
4. Don’t leave the car running in the garage.
Cars burn fuel, too. Leaving the car running in an attached garage, even if the garage door is open, isn’t a good idea. You’re trapping the carbon monoxide inside.
5. Don’t use ranges, ovens, grills, or clothes dryers for heating.
These things shouldn’t be used to heat the home. They give off carbon monoxide, and by running them for heat you increase your exposure.
6. Install CO detectors.
Since carbon monoxide is colorless, tasteless, and odorless, it’s pretty much undetectable – unless you have a detector. Some tips for CO detectors…
- Make sure that you install CO detectors on every level of your home. Place them somewhere that you’ll hear them even if you’re sleeping – outside the bedroom is a good idea. Carbon monoxide can kill someone who’s sleeping before they even realize they’ve been poisoned.
- Follow the instructions on the box when it’s installed.
- Try to keep the detector away from furniture and curtains so that you get the most accurate reading possible. (You can even find detectors that will give you digital readings, which is helpful so that you can keep an eye on the level of CO.)
- Maintain your carbon monoxide detectors. The batteries should be changed twice a year and the detectors should be replaced every five years.
Invest in some CO detectors and outsmart the carbon monoxide.
7. Shop smart.
When you’re shopping for gas appliances, make sure to only choose ones that are certified and properly tested. An Underwriters’ Laboratories-certified one, for example, has undergone extensive testing.
8. Make sure your appliances are vented.
The gas needs a channel to exit the home. All of the vents need to be properly installed. Don’t try to patch or fix a vent pipe on your own – this can lead to carbon monoxide trouble. Call in the professionals if you think there’s a problem.
Carbon monoxide is often called the “invisible killer” because of how sneaky an undetectable it can be. Make sure that you take steps to protect yourself and your family from CO poisoning.
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