Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless, poisonous gas that can form when any fossil fuel is burned—gasoline, propane, natural gas, oil, wood, coal and even tobacco or candles. It can be highly toxic to humans and animals in higher concentrations, and is measured in ppm (parts per million).
CO IS THE NO. 1 CAUSE OF POISONING DEATHS
According to the Centers for Disease Control, CO is the number one cause of poisoning deaths in the United States. Every winter we read stories of families who had high CO levels in their homes with tragic results. At lower levels of exposure, the early symptoms of CO poisoning are often mistaken for the flu: headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, sleepiness and confusion. Since CO poisoning is cumulative, a small exposure over an extended period of time can be as dangerous as a brief, large exposure. A gas appliance (furnace, boiler, hot water tank, etc.) that is not venting properly or in need of repair can allow CO to build up in your home.
CO IS MEASURED DURING PREVENTIVE MAINTENANCE
When a highly trained technician equipped with a combustion analyzer performs preventive maintenance, they measure for CO. If your readings are high, the technician can take immediate action to safeguard you and your family and advise you on the best way to correct the problem. This should be done each heating season to help protect your family and to understand if your equipment is still operating within the ranges established by the manufacturer.
LOW-LEVEL CO DETECTOR CAN ALERT YOU TO A PROBLEM
To further ensure your safety, you should install a reliable, low-level CO detector that can alert you to a problem well before a dangerous situation exists. Most of the CO monitors that you will find in the hardware store only alarm at relatively high levels and often ignore low level exposure over longer periods and can therefore offer a false sense of security. For more complete coverage, the industry and government agencies normally recommend that a separate monitor should be placed on each floor of your home.
Don’t ignore your risk of CO poisoning. If you have further questions or need help finding a low-level CO detector, contact the heating professionals at P.K. Wadsworth Heating & Cooling.
Photo credit: Kowitz