Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that kills 400 Americans each year and causes another 20,000 to visit the emergency room due to poisoning. These poisonings can occur throughout the year, but are most common during the winter.
How does it enter your home? Carbon monoxide is produced when fuels such as wood, oil, natural gas, kerosene, propane, coal, and gasoline are burned. It can also be released into the air if certain types of plastic catch fire. Common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, dizziness, nausea, and confusion. These symptoms can come on fast and if you or anyone else experiences theses symptoms, get out of your home or get to an open window immediately.
Every floor in every home should have a carbon monoxide detector. A smoke detector is not the same as a carbon monoxide detector. There are some alarms that will detect both, but if the device doesn’t explicitly state it detects both smoke and carbon monoxide, it likely does not. If you are unsure, be safe and buy a carbon monoxide-specific detector.
Along with buying a carbon monoxide detector, you should do the following to prevent carbon monoxide from ever entering your home:
Schedule an annual maintenance for your heating system. If you have a gas-powered furnace, it is producing carbon monoxide. You need to have your furnace checked by a professional to be sure that the carbon monoxide is properly moving through your furnace flue pipe and being vented out of your home.
Clean and inspect your chimney. If you use a wood-burning or natural gas fireplace, you should get an annual cleaning and check up to be sure the chimney is exhausting fumes correctly.
Never use a gas stove or oven to heat your home. This is a very dangerous way to warm your home. Not only can the excess carbon monoxide poison you and your family, you also increase your likelihood of starting a fire in your kitchen.
Never operate gasoline-powered tools in your home, garage, or basement. Electric-powered tools are safe to use inside, but only use gas-powered tools in a well-ventilated area away from the home.
Only use non-electric portable space heaters that are vented. If you have a gas-powered space heater, be sure that it is new and meets all current safety standards. Never use a gas or chemical-powered space heater in your home unless it is properly vented and specifically states it is safe for indoor use.
Never run a vehicle in a closed garage. Even if your garage door is open, it is unsafe to run your vehicle for an extended amount of time in your garage.
Keep gasoline stored in proper containers. Storing gasoline in containers not specifically designed to safely contain gasoline can lead to fume leakages which can be deadly. They are also more likely to spill and cause fires.