Every year, at least 430 people die in the U.S. from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning. Another 5,000 people visit the Emergency Room with poisoning symptoms.
Homeowners may have heard stories or statistics and wonder how to keep their families safe, especially during winter, which is when most carbon monoxide deaths occur.
What is Carbon Monoxide?
Carbon Monoxide, or CO, is a colorless, odorless, tasteless toxic gas. CO is found in the heat exchanger of furnaces. When the furnace is turned on, the CO goes through the furnace’s flue pipe and is deposited outside the home. However, CO can escape through older or damaged tubing, which is why it is crucial to keep your furnace in good repair.
A carbon monoxide leak into your home can cause headaches or convulsions, can hurt the heart and respiratory functions and can lead to death.
CO safety is not a topic that should be taken lightly. Here is what homeowners should know about maintaining their home furnace.
- Get annual maintenance check by a professional. Don’t risk trying to fix something yourself; get a qualified HVAC company to come out to manage inspections and cleaning.
- Change the air filters often. You can do this yourself. It’s important to do this during the colder seasons when the furnaces are being used the most.
- Install CO detectors. CO is colorless and odorless, so you’ll never know when there’s a leak. Ideally, install the detector near the floor; some homes come with a combination smoke detector and CO detector, often installed in the ceiling. While that is perfect for smoke detection, carbon monoxide is a heavier gas and will harm you before it reaches the ceiling.
- Make sure the area around the furnace vent is clear. The opening of the vents needs to be clear of leaves, boxes, and objects that will disrupt the flow.
- Keep portable generators outside. Even if a generator is off, CO can accumulate quickly in areas such as garages or sheds.
Warning Signs of CO Poisoning
CO poisoning is especially dangerous to children, the elderly, and those who have respiratory issues. The following are symptoms of CO in your home’s air:
- A dull headache
- Nausea or vomiting
- Shortness of breath
- Blurred vision
- Loss of consciousness
If any of these symptoms occur in anyone living in the home, check the CO detector to make sure it’s working properly. If everyone in the home feels unwell, make sure all people and animals go outside until the issues are resolved. Contact the appropriate medical services to ensure everyone’s health and safety. If you’re concerned about your furnace, contact 6 & Fix for a maintenance check or repair.