Carbon monoxide may be odorless and colorless. However, it’s far from harmless. It’s a highly toxic gas that results from the incomplete combustion of liquified petroleum gas or natural gas. Unfortunately, you can’t detect this poisonous gas without a carbon monoxide alarm.
That’s why most people unknowingly come into contact with high levels of carbon monoxide every day. So, how can you be on the safe side? Keep reading this article to learn more about the factors that may expose you to carbon monoxide, as well as how best you can protect yourself.
3 Main Sources of Carbon Monoxide in Your Home
Since the incomplete burning of fuels forms carbon monoxide, houses with attached garages and fuel-burning appliances are more prone to carbon monoxide leaks. That said, where might CO show up in your home? Here are some potential sources.
During the winter season, the chances are that you may decide to use your fireplace as an alternative way of keeping yourself warm. As you enjoy the heat produced by burning wood, you should keep in mind that they also produce smoke. With time, the smoke may accumulate in your home, thus increasing carbon monoxide levels in your indoor air.
2. Heating Systems
In some cases, heating systems such as water heaters, furnaces, space heaters, and dryers are powered by fuel. Without inspections, maintenance, and proper ventilation, these units could be the leading CO sources in your home.
These heating systems contain hydrocarbons, which mix with oxygen and burn to produce heat. When your furnace is functioning correctly, it burns the gas more or less completely. Therefore, this results in fumes that are mainly rich in carbon dioxide and water vapor. However, if the furnace lacks adequate oxygen supply, it will produce fumes that contain carbon monoxide. Believe it or not, the lack of that little oxygen atom is more than enough to cause trouble.
3. Cars, RVs, and Other Vehicles
Many automobiles need fuel combustion to operate. Unfortunately, most people have gotten used to running their cars inside the garage for a few minutes before leaving. This practice can lead to an accumulation of CO inside your garage and eventually find its way into your house.
Even if you have a detached garage, it will help if you consider having your garage door open when running your vehicle. You can also have your exhaust system checked yearly for potential leaks that might cause a CO build-up inside the car.
Signs of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Because of the nature of the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning, people often mistake these signs with flu symptoms. However, unlike flu, carbon monoxide symptoms will clear up once you leave the affected area.
Some of the most common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include:
- Dizziness and confusion
- Impaired vision and coordination
- Fatigue in otherwise healthy people
- Chest pains, especially to people with heart conditions
Have you experienced any symptoms of CO poisoning? The best way to handle the situation is by first leaving your home, getting fresh air, and then calling a professional to locate and fix the leak source.
Dangers of Carbon Monoxide Emission to Your Home
CO is harmful when you breathe it since it displaces oxygen in your blood, thus depriving the brain, heart, and other essential organs of oxygen. When breathed in large amounts, CO can overwhelm you without warning leading to suffocation.
During prolonged and high exposures, the situation may get worse, leading to vomiting and a lack of consciousness. Your muscles may weaken, and you might even end up collapsing. These effects vary from person to person.
It may be fatal to the susceptible such as the elderly, young children, and people suffering from heart diseases. CO poisoning also poses a high danger to fetuses. Although it can be recovered if caught on time, acute poisoning may cause permanent damage to vital body parts such as the heart and brain.
4 Ways of Protecting Yourself From Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
You don’t want to take any chances when it comes to carbon monoxide. Due to the nature of this gas, many people simply forget that it can be an issue. Although you can neither see nor smell carbon monoxide, there are various precautions that will protect you from CO poisoning.
1. Install Carbon Monoxide Detectors
For you to be sure of your safety, it’s in your best interest to install at least one carbon monoxide detector in every corner of your home. Ideally, you should place them outside all the bedrooms, in hallways, and check them every month.
Nowadays, many detectors and smoke alarms are readily available on the market. They have a mechanism that allows them to sound once they detect smoke or high concentrations of CO.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends only using detectors that meet the most recent set standards. You should always check your gas-powered systems just to be sure that they’re functioning correctly and not emitting carbon monoxide. Keep in mind; most gas-powered units work even when you switch off the electricity. So, turning off your power isn’t the best way to stop the leak.
2. Keep Garage Doors Open Before Starting Your Car
Though it has become a common act, you should never leave the car running in your garage. This applies, especially if you have an attached garage. Even if your garage door is open, having your car running inside it is never safe.
3. Using Your Gas Appliances as Recommended
If you have a gas stove or oven, you should never attempt to use it to heat your home. In the case of portable gas lamps, it’s best to consider using them only on the outdoors.
It would help if you used your fuel-burning space heaters only when someone’s monitoring them and with open doors and windows. Running your generator in an enclosed space can rapidly increase the CO levels in your home. Instead, consider placing it outside, far away from your house.
4. Be Cautious While Working With Solvents
When dealing with solvents in your home, it’s in your best interest to only use them in well-ventilated areas or outdoors. Methylene chloride, commonly found in varnish removers and paint, can metabolize into CO when inhaled. If you get exposed to it, you’ll likely suffer from carbon monoxide poisoning.
Rely on the Pros
Do you suspect that you have a CO leak? Don’t hesitate to call the experts at Gallagher's Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning. We will happily conduct a thorough inspection and then make the necessary changes. We’re committed to providing exceptional heating, air conditioning, and plumbing services throughout the Greater Sacramento and North Valley region.
Regardless of the complexity of the issue, our highly skilled technicians can handle it correctly. We take great pride in being bonded, licensed, and EPA certified. In addition to our many years of experience, we maintain an A+ rating with the BBB. Contact us at Gallagher's Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning today to learn more about our comprehensive services and how we can help protect you from carbon monoxide poisoning.