Carbon Monoxide: The Silent Killer
Carbon monoxide is a gas that is colorless, tasteless, odorless, and deadly. The gas distributes evenly in the air which means one leak can reach every part of your home. It doesn’t sink to the bottom or float to the ceiling. It goes everywhere.
Every home needs to take precautions against carbon monoxide. Here in California, the law requires every dwelling to install some type of carbon monoxide alert.
In our comfortable modern homes insulated and protected from outside weather conditions, according to the Centers for Disease Control, annual deaths from CO poisoning are on the rise. Now, more than ever, preventive measures to protect your family from this silent killer are an important part of home maintenance.
Where Does Carbon Monoxide Come From?
The potentially lethal gas originates from incomplete combustion of various carbon-containing fuels. Although most people think of their homes as safe, CO can originate from anything that burns in your home.
- Water heater
- Clothes dryer
- Portable fuel-burning heater
- Wood-burning stove
Those are the most obvious places fuel burns in a home. Often overlooked sources are:
- Blocked chimney or flue
- Cracked or loose furnace exchanger
- Using an indoor grill
- Backdrafts and changes in air pressure
- Running a vehicle, generator, or other combustion engine in an attached garage
If it burns, it produces carbon monoxide.
Typical heater combustion chamber. The source of possible carbon monoxide leaks.
What Are the Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the initial symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are like the flu but without a fever.
- Upset Stomach
- Chest pain
If you experience these symptoms, you should check with a doctor. If you keep breathing carbon monoxide, it can make you pass out or kill you. Because carbon monoxide is not detectable, people or are sleeping or drunk can die from CO poisoning before they have symptoms.
With prolonged or moderate exposure to carbon monoxide the headaches become throbbing, you can become drowsy or confused, and your heart rate increase. Extreme exposure results in drastic reactions in your body: convulsions, unconsciousness, brain damage, heart and lung failure. Without immediate medical attention, these symptoms are followed by death.
Children and the elderly are especially sensitive to carbon monoxide. They can reach deadly stages more quickly than healthy adults. If they exhibit symptoms before you do, pay attention and take action.
Carbon monoxide poisoning is a serious health risk. If you experience even mild symptoms, you should consult your doctor immediately.
How Does An Alert Help?
Carbon monoxide alerts detect the presence of the invisible gas in the air in your home and signal an alarm. If your home has at least one fuel-burning appliance or fireplace, you need to install an alert on every level of your home.
Place the alarm at least 15 feet away from the fuel-burning source. If you have only one alarm in your home, place it in a hallway outside of the bedroom. Better yet, have an alarm for each bedroom in your home.
Check the alarm once a week to make sure it is functioning. Have a qualified inspector perform an annual inspection of the heating system, vents, chimney and flue to assure that air is flowing freely.
The alarm is only an alert that CO is present in your home. You can’t locate the source like you could from a smoke detector.
If you hear the alarm:
- Do not attempt to locate the source
- Get out of the house into fresh air
- Make sure all family members are out
- Call the fire department from your mobile device or a neighbor’s phone
- Call 911 if anyone in your family is experiencing symptoms
- Carbon monoxide is potentially deadly. Do not ignore the alarm!
- A carbon monoxide detector is always looking out for you, as long as you keep it powered with a battery or electricity.
Best Way to Avoid Carbon Monoxide in Your Home
The best way to deal with deadly carbon monoxide is to avoid it in the first place. Take precautions for your family’s safety.
- Do not use a propane or kerosene heater inside
- Keep your generator outside, never in the house or garage
- Schedule an annual inspection of gas burning appliances
- Check furnace and clothes dryer flue for obstruction or damage. Wildlife nests and mouse holes are common problems.
- Do not run your car in the garage with the door closed. This is especially important if you have an attached garage.
- Replace your carbon monoxide detector every 5-7 years
These simple precautions can keep your family and loved ones safe from exposure. Remember you can’t taste, smell, or see carbon monoxide. An annual inspection is the best way to ensure you and your family are not part of the rising tide of CO deaths.
Inspect.Net Case Study
Inspect.Net has the training and experience to identify any source of carbon monoxide poisoning. And, we have the equipment to enter the premises to conduct an inspection.
In a recent inspection, after a carbon monoxide alert, Inspect.Net identified the source of the leak. After the source had been identified, we were able to help the clients quickly take remedial steps to repair the leak and make the house liveable for the family.
We discovered a disconnected water heater vent/flue that was releasing deadly CO into the house.
Typical gas water heater components. We go over every inch.
Investment Property Safety
Owners of investment property whether single dwellings, apartments, condominiums, or duplexes have a responsibility to ensure the safety and well-being of tenants. California law requires the same carbon monoxide alert systems in your property.
An annual inspection from a trusted professional will identify any potential leaks or safety issues that could potentially result in tenant health issues, death, and resultant legal entanglements.
Annual Home Inspection to Avoid Carbon Monoxide Leaks
To avoid deadly CO poisoning to you and your loved ones, Inspect.Net recommends and annual maintenance inspection. We check your home from top to bottom to assure that all systems are installed properly and functioning. We inspect your chimney and flue, connections to appliances and their vents, furnace and circulation system, wood stove installations and other sources of possible carbon monoxide.
In the process, we check all of your home for any possible issues such as roof leaks, appliance installation, foundation, flooring, and every part of your home. The maintenance inspection saves dollars and protects your family’s well being.
Save your family’s lives by being proactive. Install CO detectors and schedule your annual inspection.
Inspect.Net serves Hayward and the surrounding Tri-Valley area. We’re the best. Call us first. (510) 200-7555
Statistics on deaths attributed to CO poisoning in homes
CO FAQ from kidde website
CO information from wikipedia