Carbon monoxide, or CO, is a colorless, tasteless gas produced by the incomplete burning of any carbon fuels, such as natural gas or liquified petroleum gas. Your heating equipment may give off trace amounts of this gas, but by design, it vents CO outside, where the gas doesn’t have the chance to build up in your home. However, if you have a carbon monoxide leak in your home, it could accumulate too quickly for your system to handle.
Also called the “silent killer,” carbon monoxide can lead to severe health damage without early detection. Prolonged exposure to CO can cause carbon monoxide poisoning, and while many patients fully recover, it can also cause permanent brain damage or death. How do you know if you have a carbon monoxide leak?
What Does Carbon Monoxide Smell Like?
Can you smell carbon monoxide? By itself, carbon monoxide is odorless. While a CO buildup may feature accompanying exhaust gases that have a noticeable smell, you shouldn’t rely on the exhaust odor to detect carbon monoxide.
When you breathe in CO, it enters your bloodstream and inhibits your blood’s ability to carry oxygen. Because people cannot tell when they are inhaling this gas, accidental exposure to carbon monoxide accounts for over 400 deaths, 20,000 ER visits, and 4,000 hospitalizations yearly.
What Are Signs of Carbon Monoxide in Your Home?
Since carbon monoxide has no color, smell or taste, it is vital to learn how to spot the signs of potential leaks in your business or home. By learning how to check for a carbon monoxide leak, you can know when to seek help and stay safe.
- Yellow or orange flames coming out of your gas appliances instead of the usual blue flame
- Dark and sooty staining on or around gas appliances
- Pilot lights that frequently blow out
- Increased condensation on windows
- Solid fuel fires burn much slower than usual
Since carbon monoxide is so toxic, you and your family could be at risk of CO poisoning if you leave yourselves exposed to it for too long. Some resulting changes in your well-being mimic hangover symptoms and may also signify that you may have a carbon monoxide leak in your home.
- Breathlessness and chest pains
- Fainting or collapsing
If you begin experiencing these signs, it is critical to open doors and windows, evacuate your home, turn off your gas appliances, get fresh air, call your doctor and contact a professional to find the source of your carbon monoxide leak.
Related Article: Common Carbon Monoxide (CO) Poisoning Causes & Prevention Tips
How Can You Detect Carbon Monoxide?
While CO is entirely odorless, you can still detect it within your home. One straightforward solution is to get carbon monoxide detectors, which resemble smoke detectors and easily install anywhere around your home. Contrary to popular belief that carbon monoxide is heavier than air, CO monitors will be equally effective no matter where you choose to place them in a room.
CO monitors will sound an alarm when they detect traces of carbon monoxide in your home or business. It’s a best practice to place them in any room with a gas appliance, so you’ll need one in your kitchen if you have a gas stove, another near a gas water heater and so forth.
Some CO detectors also have select beeping functions to communicate with you. For example, a specific number of beeps within a given time frame could signal the need for new batteries or the presence of carbon monoxide in the air.
If you have gas appliances, it’s also crucial to schedule annual professional inspections. A trained technician who knows how to test for carbon monoxide can spot signs of potential leaks before they threaten your health and give you expert tips for preventing CO leaks in your home.
How to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Leaks
Now that you know what causes carbon monoxide leaks, we will look at some of the ways to stop them from occurring in your home or business. Other than scheduling preventive maintenance and service for your gas appliances, here are some excellent ways to prevent carbon monoxide leaks.
- Do not use portable flameless chemical heaters.
- Have your chimney inspected and cleaned annually. Chimney blockages can cause CO buildups.
- Never use temporary seals for a vent or pipe.
- Never use a gas range, dryer, or oven to heat a room.
- Never burn charcoal or use a portable grill indoors.
- Ensure your gas appliances vent correctly. Horizontal pipes prevent carbon monoxide from leaking in cases of incorrectly fitted joints.
While following these best practices can help you prevent carbon monoxide leaks, there are no guarantee leaks will not occur. Purchasing a carbon monoxide detector should still be your priority, as these are your family’s first line of defense against CO in the air.
Related Article: Carbon Monoxide Detector Maintenance & Replacement Guide
Install a Carbon Monoxide Detector From Wayne Alarm Systems Today
Carbon monoxide leaks aren’t something you can afford to take lightly when your family’s health is on the line. As one of MA’s top security and alarm companies, Wayne Alarm Systems has kept homes and businesses safe for over 50 years. We take pride in informing, protecting, and providing peace of mind to our clients through our unwavering commitment and steadfast accountability. Contact us or get a free quote today to get one step closer to keeping your home or business safe from the “silent killer.”