Carbon Monoxide: What is it? Detection, Prevention

Carbon Monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless, tasteless, and extremely hazardous gas produced when fuel (such as gas, oil, kerosene, wood, or charcoal) is burned. It is near impossible to identify without a proper detector. In the winter months, the risk of CO poisoning increases as furnaces are turned on to heat homes, and carbon monoxide gas is created during the combustion process.

It is caused by fuels not burning completely, including wood, gasoline, coal, propane, natural gas, gasoline, and heating oil. This unburned fuel can come from anything from clothes dryers, water heaters, and ovens to ranges, a fire-burning fireplace, or a car left running in a closed garage.

Carbon Monoxide Detection

The first step in limiting the risks of carbon monoxide poisoning is to ensure that you have CO monitors in your home.

Carbon monoxide detectors sound an alarm when they sense a certain amount of carbon monoxide in the air over time. Different types of alarms are triggered by different types of sensors.

The most commonly used CO monitors are UL or CSA models. Unfortunately, these models do not alert homeowners until CO levels reach 70 PPM. While it was once believed that carbon monoxide did not have any adverse effects before reaching this level, a 2009 UCLA study discovered that even very small amounts of CO exposure can result in permanent brain impairment. They concluded that no home can be considered a “healthy home” unless it’s being monitored for CO levels at 10 PPM.

Professional Low-Level CO monitors are strongly recommended to ensure that your home is safe from carbon monoxide poisoning. Low Level CO will provide warnings starting at 10 PPM and will switch warning to “HIGH” once CO levels reach 50 PPM.

If an alarm does go off first off, don’t panic. Gather everyone in your house and move people and pets outside for fresh air. Survey everyone’s health, check for any flu-like symptoms that could suggest poisoning. If these symptoms are apparent, call 911 immediately.

Carbon Monoxide Prevention

A properly functioning furnace should not increase the levels of carbon monoxide in your home. The heat exchanger is a special part designed to separate safe warm air that is circulated through your home from the poisonous carbon monoxide gas created during the combustion process when the furnace is in operation.

A fracture in the furnace’s heat exchanger is one of the most common causes of carbon monoxide leakage. Even a tiny crack that is not currently leaking CO has the potential to increase in a random amount of time. Therefore, an annual maintenance and inspection from your trusted, Al Terry Plumbing & Heating company is imperative to avoiding carbon monoxide leakage in your home. If your AL Terry Technician discovers a crack, they will be required by state law to deactivate your system. It is extremely important at this point that you do not attempt to turn the system back on, as doing so may exacerbate the situation.

According to the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA), carbon monoxide detectors should be installed in a few different locations:

Outside the doors of sleeping areas

On each floor of your home

Anywhere else required by local laws

Most Carbon Monoxide detectors are good for 5-7 years and should be replaced after that time frame. Typically, the units have a tag or date stamp on the back to indicate its age or expiration date.


Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Symptoms

While anyone can be a victim of carbon monoxide poisoning, certain members in your home may be at higher risk. Young children, pregnant women, senior citizens, smokers, individuals with serious illnesses, anyone with asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, or heart disease, and even your pets can suffer from symptoms and be at elevated risk.

To keep your home and family safe, you should be aware of the symptoms of CO poisoning.

Some of the common symptoms include:

  • headache
  • dizziness
  • weakness
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • sleepiness
  • confusion

****Do not ignore or dismiss these symptoms, especially if more than one family member is feeling them. Go outside and immediately call 911 for assistance! ****




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