carbon monoxide

Winter carbon monoxide safety reminders

Most of us hunker down in our Delmarva homes during the long winter months, and in doing so, we rely on our home heating equipment to keep us safe and protected.

But – we shouldn’t take that safety for granted! It is important to be aware of the potential risks carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning presents. More than 20,000 people visit emergency rooms with symptoms of CO poisoning each year – and nearly 40 percent of those visits come in the winter season, when our heating systems are running at full tilt.

The good news is you can avoid any dangers of CO poisoning with a little knowledge and some diligence. Here are some carbon monoxide basics to keep you safe this winter.

About carbon monoxide

  • Carbon monoxide is an odorless, and colorless gas produced when you burn propane, wood, oil, or any other kind of fuel. Exposure to it can cause illness, disorientation, or worse with prolonged exposure.
  • When your equipment is in efficient, working order, the amount of CO it produces is extremely minuscule and generally will have no affect on your health.
  • If not, however, carbon monoxide usually will accumulate due to poor ventilation or an equipment malfunction. A blocked vent or flue, a damaged or poorly maintained heating system, or overuse of an unvented heating appliance can all cause a dangerous CO build-up in your home.

Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms

  • Symptoms of CO poisoning worsen with increased exposure to the gas. Limited exposure can cause flu-like symptoms (headaches, nausea, and fatigue). Moderate exposure can cause severe headaches, drowsiness, and disorientation. High exposure can lead to unconsciousness, cardiac arrest, and potentially death. Exposure to carbon monoxide can be especially dangerous for young children, in whom the spread of CO poisoning is more rapid.
  • If you notice CO poisoning symptoms,
    • Get fresh air immediately. Open windows and doors, then leave the house
    • Call 911
    • Report your symptoms to your doctor
    • Get a professional inspection for your appliances before using them again.

    Five ways to prevent CO dangers in your home

    Carbon monoxide poisoning is preventable with some sensible preparation and awareness. Here are five of the best ways to prevent CO dangers in your home:

    • Get your heating equipment serviced every year. Preventative maintenance will enable an expert to spot issues before they pose risks to your family.
    • Install a CO detector on every floor of your home. Replace batteries once a year and replace the detector itself every five years.
    • Keep outdoor exhaust vents clear. Blocked vents can cause a dangerous buildup inside your home. Be sure to clear exhaust vents, flues, and other lines after all storms.
    • Keep an eye on your pets. If your pet seems sick or unusually slow to awaken, take him or her outside, check your CO detectors, and open windows.
    • Never start a vehicle indoors. Start your car with the garage door open, and never run it for more than a few minutes.

    Stay safe this winter! Contact us if you have any questions about safety and your heating equipment, or to schedule professional heating maintenance or an inspection for your Delmarva home.