Carbon Monoxide (CO) can be a deadly gas if you aren't taking the proper precautions in your home. Carbon monoxide leaks are the leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in America. It's estimated that CO leaks result in 430 deaths per year, but don't worry! There are things you can do to protect your home and your family.
Profile of a Silent Killer
Unlike natural gas, carbon monoxide has no odor, no color, and no taste, which means you have no way of knowing the gas is present in your breathing space. However, it does cause symptoms, but not everyone recognizes that the headache and irritated, red eyes are a reaction to carbon monoxide. By the time they realize that dizziness and confusion are overtaking them, they may be on the edge of losing consciousness.
Characteristics of a Silent Killer
When you breathe in carbon monoxide, it starts decreasing your body's oxygen by preventing the red blood cells from transporting this vital gas to your heart, lungs, brain, and other parts of the central nervous system. Inhaled in large concentrations, it poisons quickly. If toxic levels build up gradually, even if detected in time, brain damage may already be present. The very young and the elderly are at highest risk, as is anyone living with a breathing problem or heart condition.
Although the senses of sight, smell and taste may be useless in warning us that carbon monoxide is sneaking up on us, our hearing can save the day. We're talking about carbon monoxide detectors.
Patrolling Against CO
Carbon Monoxide detectors, also known as CO alarms, can detect even the smallest traces of gas. And when they do, they emit a series of ear-piercing shrieks. Two things to remember about CO detectors are placement and replacement.
- Carbon monoxide detectors should be placed in several areas of your home, including the laundry room, basement, and garage. And since the gas mixes with air, they should be situated at knee level, especially in areas where the family sleeps. In two-story homes, there should be CO detectors on each level, as well as in any area that contains a natural gas-fired furnace or appliance that runs on propane or gasoline.
- Batteries in CO detectors, like smoke alarms, should be replaced at least every six months. It helps to get in the habit of changing them when daylight savings arrives and departs each year, as they serve as timely reminders.
Possible Partners in Crime
Carbon monoxide is a by-product of incomplete combustion. Furnaces naturally produce it, as do fireplaces, water heaters, grills, dryers, and room heaters. In other words, anything that burns oil, gas, gasoline, wood, natural gas, or charcoal to produce heat. This is why they need to be installed by professionals and maintained and cleaned annually. A faulty furnace can fill the room with carbon monoxide, and the route of the escape is often a crack in the heat exchanger.
The Escape Route
The heat exchanger is the only wall separating the air supply from the toxic flue gases. If it is cracked, carbon monoxide can mix with the air supply and be blown through the heat vents to circulate through the house. The average furnace will function for 15 years before cracks develop in the heat exchanger. However, excessive heat and an inadequate air supply will hasten the deterioration. And both can occur if you fail to change the air filter regularly. A dirty filter will cut down on the furnace's ventilation, causing a heat build-up, and eventually, the heat exchanger will overheat and crack.
If you want to make sure your family remains safe throughout the long winter when they spend so much time in an airtight home, your mission is threefold:
- Check your maintenance notes for the last time you changed the furnace's air filter. If it's been three months or longer, put in a clean one.
- Make sure you have enough carbon monoxide detectors, with fresh batteries, in all the appropriate places.
- Schedule your annual furnace cleaning and maintenance, and ask the technician how the heat exchanger looks.
If you're concerned about your furnace leaking carbon monoxide, call us today at Guaranteed Services! We can put your mind at ease by servicing your furnace.