Indoor Air Quality
Carbon monoxide (CO) protection must be a priority if your Inland Empire area home utilizes a gas furnace for heating in the winter or any other fuel-burning appliances or fireplaces throughout the year. While naturally created through the combustion process, it’s meant to be directed out of the home for your safety, but system malfunctions can create the risk for carbon monoxide exposure, which at its worst can be deadly.
Carbon monoxide protection starts with education followed by action. Learn more about this risk and what to do to protect your family from carbon monoxide exposure in the home.
What Is Carbon Monoxide?
Carbon monoxide is a gas that has no color, odor or taste. When fossil fuels burn, carbon monoxide is produced as a byproduct. It’s created by gasoline, natural gas, charcoal, wood, propane and heating oil.
In the home, CO can be produced by several different sources:
- Gas and oil furnaces
- Gas generators
- Gas and charcoal grills
- Gas fireplaces
- Wood stoves and fireplaces
How Carbon Monoxide Becomes Dangerous
When household fuel-burning appliances and other equipment are used properly and in good condition, the CO produced by the system is safely vented outside the home. When there is improper ventilation, carbon monoxide can accumulate, which raises concentration levels and creates the potential for exposure. Carbon monoxide levels rise quite rapidly in enclosed or tightly sealed areas.
Common sources of carbon monoxide in the home include:
- Broken furnace heat exchangers
- Blocked or damaged flue piping for furnaces or boilers
- Backdrafting from gas furnaces, gas water heaters, fireplaces and wood stoves
- Using gas or charcoal grills indoors
- Using gas or kerosene space heaters or generators indoors without ventilation
- Vehicle exhaust in attached garages
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Exposure to increased levels of carbon monoxide in the home puts people and pets at risk of CO poisoning, which can be deadly. Each year, 430 or more people die due to accidental carbon monoxide poisoning across the country. With more carbon monoxide in the air, CO replaces oxygen in red blood cells with every breath, which blocks the body’s organs and tissues from receiving much-needed oxygen.
Carbon monoxide poisoning can occur very fast in a home – today’s homes are often sealed tight to help retain heating and cooling energy, which limits ventilation so carbon monoxide levels rise quickly in the enclosed space. The symptoms can be similar to the flu, which can prevent victims from detecting their condition and its severity.
Symptoms of CO poisoning include:
- Blurred vision
- Dull headache
- Nausea or vomiting
- Shortness of breath
- Loss of consciousness
If carbon monoxide poisoning is suspected, those affected should seek medical attention immediately. Everyone should exit the home right away. If it’s safe to do so, leave your windows and doors open, and turn off the appliance you suspect to be the source of high carbon monoxide levels. Do not reenter the home until the proper authorities clear you to.
Carbon Monoxide Protection for Your Family
Increased carbon monoxide levels create a potentially deadly risk inside your home. Because it is impossible for humans to detect, every homeowner needs to take carbon monoxide protection measures to reduce the risk and ensure early detection.
Carbon Monoxide Detectors
The only way to alert your family to the presence of high CO levels is through the use of carbon monoxide detectors throughout the home. Any home that uses gas appliances or that has a fireplace or attached garage needs to have carbon monoxide detectors installed.
For these devices to work reliably, they must be positioned properly and maintained. Review the manufacturer’s instructions for placement prior to installation for optimal protection in the home.
- Every floor of the home needs its own carbon monoxide detector.
- If only one carbon monoxide detector is available, it should be placed outside the home’s sleeping areas to ensure occupants hear the alert and wake up.
- Install the carbon monoxide detector on a wall approximately 5 feet above floor level.
- Install units 15 to 20 feet away from gas appliances.
- Install units 10 feet away from the entrance to an attached garage.
There are key areas to avoid when installing carbon monoxide detectors in a home:
- Close to fuel-burning appliances
- In humid areas, including bathrooms
- In direct sunlight
- Near fans, vents or windows
When installing more than one carbon monoxide detector, consider a linked system. With this setup, if carbon monoxide is detected by one unit, all units are triggered to sound the alarm. Everyone in the home is alerted to exit right away, whereas an alert may be missed if a single alarm sounds in a far away area of the home.
For optimal carbon monoxide protection, choose detectors that are hardwired to the home’s electrical system and have a battery backup. Dual power options ensure the units are powered even during electrical outages and limit the risk of failure due to dead batteries.
To ensure carbon monoxide detectors are in good working order, regular maintenance must be performed.
- Units should be tested once per month by pressing the test button.
- At the time of the test, wipe away any dust that has accumulated on the unit.
- Annually, vacuum around the exterior of the unit to remove any dust that has accumulated.
- Replace the unit’s batteries every six months as a precaution, even if they are still good.
Additional Measures for Carbon Monoxide Protection
To protect your family, it is crucial to maintain your home’s fuel-burning appliances. It’s recommended that heating systems in Redlands, CA, receive preventive maintenance service once per year. During a furnace tune up, the system’s heat exchanger and flue exhaust system are inspected to ensure they are in good condition with no malfunctions that could allow carbon monoxide to escape the system and put the home’s occupants at risk for exposure.
Make sure all fuel-burning appliances are vented properly. Keep chimneys and fireplaces clean and have the chimney inspected annually.
Carbon Monoxide Protection for HVAC Systems
Sanborn’s Air Conditioning & Heating takes carbon monoxide protection seriously for the safety of our neighbors. Schedule heating system maintenance services to ensure your furnace or boiler is free of malfunctions that create carbon monoxide exposure risks. Contact us today to request service.