Cold temperatures drive homeowners to batten down their homes and turn up the thermostat, increasing the risk of carbon monoxide (CO) exposure. About 50,000 people in the U.S. end up in the emergency room each year due to accidental CO poisoning, and more than 400 people die.
This odorless, tasteless, colorless gas is a byproduct of incomplete combustion, meaning it’s released every time a material is burned. If the appliances in your home run on natural gas, oil, propane, kerosene, wood, gasoline or charcoal, you’re at risk of CO inhalation. Learn what happens when you inhale carbon monoxide emissions and how to minimize your risk of exposure this winter.
Commonly referred to as the “silent killer,” carbon monoxide is lethal because it prevents the body from taking in oxygen appropriately. CO molecules dislodge oxygen in the blood, starving the heart, brain, lungs and other vital organs of oxygen. Dense concentrations of CO can overwhelm your system in minutes, triggering loss of consciousness and suffocation. Without prompt care, brain damage or death can occur.
Carbon monoxide poisoning can also occur slowly if the concentration is fairly low. The most common signs of CO exposure include:
Since these symptoms resemble the flu, many people don’t discover they have carbon monoxide poisoning until mild symptoms advance to organ damage. Be wary of symptoms that lessen when you leave the house, illustrating the source might be someplace inside.
While CO exposure is alarming, it’s also entirely preventable. Here are the top ways to keep your family safe from carbon monoxide poisoning.
If you ever use combustion appliances in or near your home, you should install carbon monoxide detectors to notify you of CO emissions. These detectors can be hardwired, battery-operated or plugged into an outlet based on the style. Here’s how to make the most of your carbon monoxide detectors:
Several appliances, including furnaces, water heaters, fireplaces and clothes dryers, can emit carbon monoxide if the system is installed poorly or not working as it should. A once-a-year maintenance visit is the only way to know for sure if an appliance is defective before a leak develops.
A precision tune-up from Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing includes the following:
If your gas furnace, boiler or water heater has formed a CO leak, or you want to prevent leaks before they happen, Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing can help. Our HVAC and plumbing maintenance and repair services encourage a safe, comfortable home all year-round. Call your local Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing office for more info about carbon monoxide safety or to schedule heating services.
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