How Do I Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?
It’s important to know the signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, but the best way to avoid exposure is to know how to prevent it from happening in the first place. In many cases, CO poisoning could have been prevented with a few easy steps. It can be tempting to put off installing a CO detector or scheduling preventative maintenance of an appliance, but maintaining your home and taking precautions will keep your family safe and reduce your risk of CO exposure.
If you aren’t sure where to start, then you’re in the right place! When it comes to preventing carbon monoxide poisoning, there are several things you can do to protect your home and your family.
1. Know Your Home
You should know which appliances in and around your house are at risk of producing carbon monoxide. Is your furnace powered by natural gas? Are you cooking on a gas stove? Does your power washer require gasoline to run?
Walk around your home and, if you need to, write down all the appliances that fall into this category. Some homes will have several, while others may only have one. However, in these modern times, it’s highly unlikely that you won’t have at least one appliance or spot in your home that puts you at risk for CO poisoning, so make sure you take the time to investigate.
2. Purchase and Install Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Installing a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector is the best way to protect your family from potential problems. Similar to a smoke detector, these detectors are designed to measure the levels of CO in your home and alert you if they are too high. Where should you install a CO detector? The best option is to install a CO detector in every major area of your home — kitchen, living room and bedrooms. It’s especially important to install CO detectors close to any of the appliances you identified as fuel burning.
While installing several CO detectors is ideal, we realize your budget may not allow for you to purchase and install that many all at one time. If you do need to spread them out, start by installing one near the bedrooms in your home. That way, your family will hear the alarm if it goes off and have time to remove your family from the house. If you’re able, add additional detectors in the other major areas listed above.
3. Regularly Check Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Once you’ve installed carbon monoxide detectors, it’s essential to maintain them. If they aren’t working, they can’t protect you and your family. A good rule of thumb is to replace the batteries in your CO detectors during daylight savings changes in March and November. By having this regular reminder, you don’t have to rely on your memory or a to-do list to keep these in proper working order.
Carbon monoxide detectors are long-lasting, but they don’t last forever. Plan to replace the entire unit every five years to make sure your home and your family are always adequately protected.
4. Service Fuel-Burning Appliances Regularly
Water heaters, heating systems, gas cooking ranges, gas fireplaces and any other appliances that burn oil, gas or coal should be serviced every year to prevent a break or malfunction that could result in a CO leak. It can be tempting to put off preventative maintenance or assume that it’s fine if it’s working, but neglecting these appliances can result in broken pipes or vents that leak CO into your home.
5. Make Sure Appliances Have Proper Ventilation
Ensure that your gas appliances are properly ventilated. Hire a professional to install them if you can or, at the very least, have them inspected and correct any problems with the ventilation system to prevent CO leaks.
6. Schedule Regular Chimney Inspections
Have your chimney checked — and cleaned if needed — once a year. This prevents a build-up of debris and dirt in the chimney that can trap CO and send it back into your house.
7. Practice Safe Generator Usage
Many people rely on generators as a backup source of power after a storm. If you use a generator indoors, it should be within 20 feet of a window, door or vent. And, always make sure you have at least one working battery-powered or battery-backup CO detector to alert you if the generator is increasing the CO levels in your home.
8. Don’t Cut Corners
If you discover that a vent pipe is cracked or broken, never patch it with tape or gum. Using these to patch a hole can result in a build-up of carbon monoxide in your home. If you don’t know the correct way to repair these types of pipes, call a qualified professional to repair the pipe and make sure it can safely vent CO out of your home.
9. Never Grill Indoors
Yes, grilling is fun, but you should never do it inside. Charcoal, propane and other gasses used to power grills and camp stoves can release CO and, if used indoors, the CO can build up to unsafe levels. Grilling should always happen outdoors to make sure CO does not build up in your home.
10. Don’t Start a Car or Lawn Equipment in a Closed Garage
This is perhaps one of the most well-known examples of how carbon monoxide can hurt someone, but it still needs to be said. A car should never be started when a garage door is closed. This is dangerous to anyone in the car and, if your garage is attached to your home, it can also send high levels of carbon monoxide into the house, as well.
While lawn equipment such as a mower or power washer isn’t typically as big or powerful as a car, it can still produce unhealthy levels of carbon monoxide that will quickly build up if the garage door is closed. Make sure the door is always open before starting any vehicles or lawn equipment and, if you can, wait to start a mower or other power tools until you bring them out into the yard or driveway.