How To Prevent Carbon Monoxide Exposure

gas-stove Do you have a gas fireplace? Is your home or water heated using natural gas? If so, carbon monoxide exposure may be a risk. The dangerous gas is a real concern for homeowners, as 170 people die of non-automotive carbon monoxide poisoning each year, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help protect against dangerous levels of gas in your home. Consider investing in a home security system with an added carbon monoxide detector for the best protection.

What is Carbon Monoxide?

When various materials are used as fuel, such as wood, oil, coal, kerosene, propane and natural gas, carbon monoxide (CO) is produced as part of the burning process.

Symptoms of CO Poisoning

Carbon monoxide is colorless and odorless, so the symptoms of exposure are often confused for the flu. Poisoning can escalate if victims don’t escape the area, so be aware of the initial symptoms of CO poisoning, which include:
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
If CO is slowly building up in a room, the initial symptoms of poisoning may be prolonged. However, if the gas fills a room quickly, a victim might experience more severe symptoms right away, including:
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Loss of muscular coordination
  • Mental confusion
  • Vomiting
  • Death

How to Prevent CO Poisoning

1.     Proper detection
Just as you help protect your home from fire with smoke detectors, having the proper CO detectors installed is equally as important - especially since the gas is odorless and colorless. Detectors should be UL-approved and placed away from anything that might block detection, such as drapery.
2.     Leak prevention
Practice proper safety precautions to keep your home safe. Follow these guidelines to make sure you install detection equipment properly:
Read the directions

Follow manufacturer's instructions when operating and installing equipment. Also, research local building codes to make sure you are compliant.

Call a professional

If installation calls for professionals, do not attempt the project on your own. Also, make an appointment with an expert annually to inspect and service your chimney and furnace.

Keep equipment out of enclosed spaces

Do not use generators or any other tool that runs on gas in enclosed spaces, as carbon monoxide will build up even with doors and windows open. Never burn charcoal or use fuel-burning equipment in the house or garage, either.

Turn off the ignition

Turn off the car ignition immediately upon parking in your attached garage, as CO can build up quickly, even when the garage door is open.

Only use appliances for intended purpose

Do not use a gas range, oven or hair dryer to heat your home, and avoid using unvented fuel-burning appliances where people sleep. Instead, stay with friends or family if your home is without heat.

Keep vents clear

Make sure appliance vents are clear of anything that might block airflow. Don’t cover the bottom of your gas oven with foil or throw tarps over vents during renovations.