As the days get cooler people turn to furnaces and space heaters to keep warm. In addition, homes tend to get closed up tight. It’s time to make sure your family is safe from carbon monoxide poisoning this winter.
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless, poisonous gas that can form when any type of fuel is burned. It could be natural gas, propane, gasoline, oil, wood or coal—and even tobacco or candles. In higher concentrations it is highly toxic to humans and animals and is measured in ppm (parts per million). The World Health Organization lists 15-20 ppm as the lowest level at which CO can cause ill effects. Since CO poisoning can build up over time, a small continued exposure can be as dangerous as a brief, large exposure.
The Centers for Disease Control lists CO as the number one cause of poisoning deaths in the United States.
Each winter we hear of family tragedies caused by high CO levels. The early symptoms of CO poisoning are much like the flu: weakness, headache, dizziness, nausea/vomiting and confusion.
Any gas appliance that is not venting properly or is in need of repair can allow CO to build up in your home. When a technician does preventive maintenance, they check for CO with a highly accurate tool called a combustion analyzer. If the reading is high, the technician can immediately take action to protect you and your family and advise you on how to correct the problem. This test should be done each heating season to guarantee your equipment is operating safely.
To further protect your family, you should install a reliable, low-level CO detector that can alert you to a problem long before any dangerous situation exists. Look for a CO detector that meets or exceeds UL Standard 2034 and has a battery backup. If this information is not clearly noted on the packaging it may be able to be found online. A separate monitor should be placed on each floor of your home, and the batteries should be changed when you change your smoke detector batteries.
It’s not hard to protect your family from 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.
Kim Nemecek works at P.K. Wadsworth Heating & Cooling. After growing up in Cleveland, she lived in Florida for many years, working at an air conditioning company there. Kim has four grown children, two grandchildren and two spoiled dogs. She lives in Solon with her husband, Todd.
The opinions and statements contained in this article are for general informational purposes only and are not instructions. Only trained, licensed and experienced personnel should attempt installation/repair. The author assumes no liability for the opinions/statements made in this article. Any individual attempting a repair or installation based on this article does so at their own risk of loss.