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10 Ways to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

On June 28, 2021, In Uncategorized,

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.

Why Is Carbon Monoxide Dangerous?

Carbon monoxide can be deadly to breathe and may account for half of all fatal poisonings. When too much carbon monoxide enters the bloodstream, it deprives oxygen to vital organs like the brain and heart. An overabundance of CO may dissipate enough oxygen that you fall unconscious and suffocate. While CO poisoning is reversible if caught early enough, carbon monoxide can do serious damage within minutes and hinder your chances of recovery.

Even for those who recover, acute CO poisoning may cause permanent damage to the brain and heart. Those most susceptible to CO poisoning may experience its symptoms and effects even sooner, making carbon monoxide especially dangerous for young children, older adults and people with heart or lung disease.

How to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

In the United States, accidental CO poisoning results in at least 430 deaths every year. So, how can you reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning? Learn how to prevent CO poisoning with a few comprehensive strategies and guidelines.

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.

Man installing a carbon monoxide detector

2. Purchase and Install Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Installing a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector is the best way to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. 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 — your 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 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 leave 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 ensure 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

If you want to know how to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning with your fireplace, start by having 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. To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning with fireplaces that burn wood, always open dampers before use. Keeping wood-burning fireplaces in good repair is essential, just as you should with your other fuel-burning appliances.

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. 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.

Will Opening Windows Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?

As CO accumulates in an enclosed room, the people inside face an accelerating risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. While opening windows may help slow down CO build-up, the time it takes for CO to dissipate from the enclosed space entirely depends on the amount of fresh air passing through the window. The half-life of carbon monoxide in the human body is approximately four hours, meaning it may take over eight hours for a well-ventilated room to remove carbon monoxide completely.

Additionally, there is no guarantee that CO will flow toward the window. You must ensure there is enough ventilation into the house to prevent any lingering carbon monoxide. The fresh air cannot provide much help to other rooms with closed windows or lacking ventilation. That’s why opening windows should be treated as an extra layer of protection rather than your primary method of preventing CO poisoning.

CO detector alarms alert you to the presence of harmful fumes so you and your family can reach safety before becoming poisoned. Opening windows may help you return to a space free of CO, but only if you can evacuate your home in time.

How Can I Tell If There Is Carbon Monoxide in My Home?

If you want to know how to prevent carbon monoxide in your home, start by installing CO detectors. Carbon monoxide detectors play a critical role in warning you when gas leaks and dangerous levels of CO occur in your home. Without CO detectors, it can be challenging to tell when this odorless and colorless gas starts to accumulate. CO detectors measure the amount of carbon monoxide in the air. Therefore, you receive an adequate warning when there would ordinarily be none.

Any fuel-burning source can produce carbon monoxide, including furnaces, ovens, kerosene heaters, lanterns and portable generators. The fumes produced when starting vehicles or burning charcoal and wood also emanate CO. When these items are used in an enclosed space, you can almost guarantee there is some level of carbon monoxide in your home. CO detectors let you know when these levels become dangerous.

Man testing out carbon monoxide detector

Contact Wayne Alarm Systems for Carbon Monoxide Detectors Today

To help you prevent CO poisoning, Wayne Alarm Systems can install detectors in the best locations to protect your family from gas and carbon monoxide risks. For more information on how we can outfit your home to be safer, contact us online and chat with a Wayne Alarm Systems expert today.

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