Carbon Monoxide 101
Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless and toxic gas. Because it is impossible to see, taste or smell, CO can kill you before you are aware it is in your home. This harmful gas is a byproduct of incomplete combustion in fuel-burning appliances such as furnaces, ranges, water heaters, room heaters, fireplaces, etc.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Symptoms
At lower levels of exposure, carbon monoxide (CO) causes mild effects that are often mistaken for the flu. These symptoms include headaches, dizziness, disorientation, nausea and fatigue. The effects of CO exposure can vary greatly from person to person depending on age, overall health, the concentration of the gas, and length of exposure.
headaches, dizziness, disorientation, nausea and fatigue. The effects of CO exposure can vary greatly from person to person depending on age, overall health, the concentration of the gas, and length of exposure.
How to Test for Carbon Monoxide
The Consumer Products Safety Commission recommends that every home have at least one carbon monoxide alarm that meets the requirements of the most recent Underwriters Laboratories (UL) 2034 standard or the International Approval Services 6-96 standard. Ideally, this means one alarm on each level of the home.
We recommend that you replace the batteries in your CO detector each year when daylight savings time ends and the clocks are set back one hour.
More information from the EPA about carbon monoxide and CO detectors.
Steps to Reduce Exposure to Carbon Monoxide
It is extremely important that all combustion equipment is maintained and properly adjusted. The operation of all motor vehicles in adjacent buildings should be carefully managed. Additional ventilation can be used as a temporary measure when high levels of CO are expected for short periods of time.
- Keep gas appliances properly adjusted.
- Consider purchasing a vented space heater when replacing one that is not vented.
- Use proper fuel in kerosene space heaters.
- Install and use an exhaust fan vented to the outdoors over gas stoves.
- Open flues when fireplaces are in use.
- Choose properly sized wood stoves that are certified to meet EPA emission standards. Make certain that doors on all wood stoves fit tightly.
- Have a trained professional inspect, clean, and tune-up central heating system (furnaces, flues, and chimneys) annually. Repair any leaks promptly.
- Do not idle the car inside garage.
Only run generators outside. Never use a generator inside homes, garages, crawlspaces, sheds, or similar areas. Deadly levels of carbon monoxide can quickly build up in these areas and can linger for hours, even after the generator has shut off.
Detecting any carbon monoxide lingering in your home is important, but there are plenty of other air pollutants that can be harmful to your health. As a homeowner, we recommend learning more about the common causes of harmful air quality and what you can do to improve it.
Carbon Monoxide Inspection
A more thorough carbon monoxide inspection can be completed by a professional that has the proper tools and training to detect potential culprits of carbon monoxide leaks in your house ahead of time. If you are looking to ensure your house is safe from a CO leak, you can request that a carbon monoxide inspection be added to your home inspection.
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