There are fewer than 1,000 carbon monoxide poisoning cases in the United States each year. This relatively low figure is partially due to the knowledge of knowing how to detect it. You do need a detector to detect this gas. However, other signs can help you determine if there is a possible leak that you should know about.
What Is a Carbon Monoxide Detector?
Since carbon monoxide is odorless and colorless, you cannot detect its presence without some help. A carbon monoxide detector measures how much of this gas is present in the air inside your home. Once it reaches a certain level, the alarm will sound.
In general, you need a detector on each floor, including the basement. Make sure that they are placed close to sleeping areas so that if the alarm would sound during the night, it will wake everyone up. It is a good idea to also place one near the furnace, fireplace, attached garage, and water heater.
Ensure that there are no obstructions near your detectors. You should also make sure that there are no adverse environmental conditions where you place them.
Make sure to replace the batteries every six months. It is a good idea to replace the batteries when you change your clocks for the time change so that it is easy to remember when to input fresh batteries.
Which Household Items Can Produce Carbon Monoxide?
Carbon monoxide is produced from burning fuel, so anything that uses fuel in your home can be a source of this gas. Should any of these items malfunction, they could produce enough carbon monoxide to be dangerous to pets and humans. The most common household items that can produce this gas include:
- Water heaters
- Charcoal grills
- Gas appliances
- Gas-powered vehicles
- Wood-burning stoves
- Kerosene heaters
- Portable generators
Certain paint removers contain an ingredient called methylene chloride, which is changed to a form of carbon monoxide in the body. If you have any of these, make sure to store them outdoors or dispose of them. Never keep them in a basement or a garage.
Determine If You Smell Any Gas
You cannot smell carbon monoxide, but other gases can accumulate in your home that do have an odor. In some cases, there will be exhaust gases that you can detect that will accompany carbon monoxide. Exhaust gases also contain high levels of carbon monoxide.
One of the most common smells that indicate a gas leak is rotten eggs. This would signal a natural gas leak in your home.
Check All Items With a Pilot Light
Items that often have a pilot light include a gas stove, furnace, and water heater. It is important to keep an eye on the pilot light because if it is going out often, you need to have it serviced.
Another thing to look at is the color of the flame. Your pilot light should be burning blue. If it is burning yellow instead, a repair is needed. The one exception to this rule is a natural gas fireplace. These are designed so that for aesthetic purposes, the flame is yellow instead of blue.
Inspect Fuel-Burning Equipment
Look at your fuel-burning equipment, such as your fireplace or chimney, to see if there is a back-draft in your home. You should also be looking for smoke and soot, which indicate that something needs to be serviced. Lastly, you might notice some abnormal fumes coming from them.
Pay attention to the air in your home. If it’s stale when it’s normally fresh, you might have a problem. You also want to be aware of stuffiness or the smell of something overheating or burning.
Take a Look at Your Fireplace and Chimney
Before using your fireplace, you should make sure that it is in good working order. If you notice some fallen soot, this could indicate a problem that could lead to carbon monoxide. You also want to check out the chimney flue. If there is no upward draft, it must be fixed before you can safely use it.
Explore Your Appliances
Gas appliances are one of the biggest sources of carbon monoxide leaks. Look around your appliances to see if there are any brownish-yellow or sooty-looking stains. These could indicate an accumulation of carbon dioxide in the immediate area.
If any of your appliances are near windows, this could also help you to identify carbon monoxide buildup. Assuming you have taken the proper measures to reduce moisture in the area, if you notice a lot of condensation or dripping on the glass, you could be facing a carbon monoxide leak.
Be Aware of the Symptoms
Carbon monoxide exposure can be very serious and cause a wide variety of symptoms. The following are possible, depending on your general health, the level of concentration, and how long you were exposed:
- Rapid breathing
- Stomach pain
- Impaired vision
- Shortness of breath
- Chest tightness or pain
- Feeling sick
- Vomiting and nausea
- Trouble walking
If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to quickly exit your home and seek medical attention. Anyone who is suspected of being exposed to carbon monoxide should visit a doctor even if they are not having symptoms.
Make sure to also remove all pets because exposure to this gas can also make them sick. They may appear listless, drowsy, and weak.
How to Prevent a Carbon Monoxide Leak
While you cannot completely prevent this gas leak, there are things that you can do to reduce the risk of it happening. Consider the following precautions:
- Make sure that your carbon monoxide detectors are working properly
- Check your appliances to determine if they need repair or replacement
- Have your HVAC system inspected on the proper schedule
- Have your chimney and fireplace serviced regularly
- Ensure proper ventilation for fuel-burning equipment
- Before you start your vehicle, make sure the garage door is open
- Do not warm your house with a gas stove
- If you are using a generator, make sure that it has sufficient ventilation, and never keep it indoors
Make sure that your carbon monoxide detectors are always working and that you know the signs of a leak. Call Davis & Green today for an inspection or a professional air quality test. They can also help you with any electrical, plumbing, heating, and cooling needs so that your Richmond, VA home is comfortable and always a safe haven.